Oceans, rivers, lakes, forest, grassland, flora, fauna beyond comprehension, fresh air… I am glad to live on this giant rock in the Northern Hemisphere.
Canada Day has always been a day of joy for me. Fireworks, face paint, games, parties. A day of celebrating the place where I live. A day of singing “My home and native land”.
I was born here. It is the only home that I have known.
And it was a home to others long before me. There were already nations here when England’s Queen gave her edict in 1867.
I can’t imagine what it would feel like if people from another nation came and said “This is no longer Canada. You can no longer speak English. Your people may not even have a soul but just in case you do, we will take your children and assimilate them so that they can escape damnation.” Instead of being given the gift of the gospel in their own language many of the children were abused and violated by those who called themselves Christians.
There are ugly stories in the building of our nation. The railroad that brought us together was built with Chinese and Japanese sweat and blood and instead of thanking the workers they were told to go home and that they were not welcome here.
I am tired and sad when I hear these stories. How can I celebrate this beautiful land? What can I teach my daughter about the place where she was born?
Well, if I was born in China I would learn about the customs and the people and the language. I remember when I first came home from China to Vancouver Island I saw a First Nations cultural center and felt a hunger to learn more. I had spent time in orientation and travelled 11 hours on an airplane to experience a different nation and culture and here was one right here. Not one but several. In that moment I felt joy and the beauty of that discovery.
There are 11 First Nations in Metro Vancouver alone. With beautiful names and languages, stories and wisdom. Strengths and weaknesses just like any other people group.
In recent weeks while hearing so many stories of racism and oppression I have felt tempted to be ashamed of my ethnicity. As well as feeling defensive and self pity.
The better way that I am finding is the way of honour. I don’t need to feel shame of my English-Scottish-German (and 2% Jewish) background. Nations that have their own stories of beauty and sadness. One day I want to go to Europe and learn more about them. I love hearing about my great grandparents who immigrated here and fell fell in love, got married and worked hard to provide for their children. I honour them.
I honour the 50+ First Nations in Canada who have a history with this land carried in the stories of their elders. I honour their unique culture and language and values. I want to learn more. I grieve at the atrocities committed. The losses that cannot be repaid. The years that cannot be given back.
I celebrate the hope of moving forward in conciliation and imagining what Canada could be like.
I find hope in the first two verses of Psalm 24:
“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.” (NIV).
There are many many First Nations stories about their Creator. I want to learn those and other stories.
It is my prayer and cry that this land and it’s people will be glorious and free. Creator God, create in me a new heart that loves and honours and humbly learns the stories of the place that I call home. Help me to see what You are doing here and join with You in bringing healing and true peace.