Like my trip to the Jefferson Memorial, my visit to this historical site netted some thought-provoking elements. While Washington wasn't by any means without fault (he, like other founding fathers, owned slaves, for example), he had a reputation for integrity. And I was particularly struck by how he spent so much time--much of it relunctantly--away from the people and home he loved (both during the war and during his two terms as president) for a cause he believed in so deeply. He was a true believer, someone who at his core believed in the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence. More than once, he could have gained a great deal of personal power (folks wanted to make him king), but he rejected those moments in the belief that the ideals he embraced would work if the people of the colonies embraced them too. And towards the end of his life, he began to rethink slavery and even called for its end.
Echoed in all this, I can't help but feel a bit challenged in my own life. Washington's commitment to and sacrifice for political and philosophical ideals makes me examine my own commitment and willingness to sacrifice for Jesus and his Way. In some ways, Jesus created his own declaration--a Declaration of Life, if you will. It contains marvelous truths--that the Kingdom and healed relationships with God and others has been opened and offered to us, that in this Kingdom which we express locally we become the vessels for God's Light and Love, that his Kingdom-coming will one day be Kingdom-come. And that invites me to ask some questions: Am I a true believer? How much trust do I have that Jesus is right? That the truths contained in Jesus are real? And am I willing to relinquish personal power (especially the temptation to believe "my way is the best way") for the reality that together, as the people of God, we best express the Kingdom here-and-now as we participate in God's Kingdom-coming work of bringing Light, Love, Life and Right-ness? Perhaps these are questions less answered in one moment than over a lifetime. By the end of my own life, I hope I've asked them a lot.