Monday, July 21, 2008

This Rising Song

Nothing inspires me as inspiration itself. And that usually comes in the form of a certain generation.

It was a busy, late afternoon in Washington, D.C at the Dulles airports. Hundreds of people rushed to catch their flights and shuttles. The group of people who had come from everywhere for the same reason I had sat together in a huddle in front, waiting for their ride. The van came, with the name PATRICK HENRY COLLEGE labeled on its side. The kids lined up and piled in. I sat next to the window in the middle row, pressed up against it by the amount of people on the bench. I glanced at my surroundings. Teenagers. Lots of them. Different sizes, different ages, different kids. These were to be my family - and my sister's - for the next week.

What happened next was so strange that it was normal. Everyone was nice. Everyone was friendly. Everyone was kind.

Were these teenagers?

Yes, but they were teenagers with a mission. Young people with a vision, however slight, who were gathering with a common passion. I liked it.

But the mean, nasty staff - now they were a different story. Just kidding. Whoever thought our staff was mean and nasty certainly wasn't there all the way, because our staff was truly the greatest. They might have been inexperienced compared to all of the staffs at camps who are tough, have years under their belts, and who make their campers go to bed at nine 'o clock. But ours was the coolest. We had to be in our dorms by ten, but we all knew that our counselors would let us stay up and chat in our rooms until dawn if we so pleased. Our staff was really the best. Hands down. Honest-to-goodness. No kidding. They knew that they were giving us campers far more freedom than other camps, but that was fine with us. Only we'd know that when more responsibility is given, more responsibility rises. When much is required, much is received.

I have always considered myself a person interested in politics, but I don't think anything could have prepared me for the shocking immersion into the political world I'd experience once I arrived. Right after my arrival I discovered that I was a senator from Virginia and expected to be in congress every single day. In our first session I discovered just how important parliamentary procedure actually was. I'd always thought of it as some funny joke movies sported and TV talked about, but that didn't really happen. I knew it existed, but hadn't a clue how strictly it would be upheld. After observing the firm, collected public rebuke of various congressmen and women by our chairman, I decided that for the first day or so, I'd remain quiet and learn about the proceedings. My little sister, Rachel, who had accompanied me, sat still by my side in complete awe as home schooled twelve-year-olds rose to their feet and began eloquent debates, or presented well-written bills.

We discovered that one person at camp would become camp president, and with that, we began our search for our favorite candidate. At that point there was probably about ten kids running - but that would be eliminated quite a bit by the second day - the primaries. (This was definitely, like they had said, life in the political fast lane!) But this was just the political side of camp.

Every day after breakfast, we'd head down to the Town Hall (actually the basement of our dorm) to hear from an inspiring speaker. There were so many of them - who spoke on so many different topics - that at first I felt a little flabbergasted - and I am only now gathering my thoughts in a sane manner to restate them to you. :)

Michael Smith, president and co-founder of HSLDA. Says enough. Christopher Klicka, lead attorney with HSLDA and a man with the most amazing testimonies of God's grace. Kristen Wright with Parental Rights - a group to amend the constitution to make it more explicit regarding the rights of parents.

So many people I've only heard about but longed to see in person, in other words.

Alex and Brett Harris, the incredible authors of Do Hard Things and the founders of, also spoke to us, but in a completely different way than what I'd expected. Somewhat like how they speak on their well-known Do Hard Things tour except slightly more informal, the brothers bounced off of each other in a humorous and captivating way - quietly convincing their audience of the truths they presented. They told their story. A story of two teenagers floating aimlessly along in life until they were rudely awakened with the message that has changed their life and those they have shared it with. I'd heard this story before, but somehow it seemed so much more powerful coming right from them. They're normal guys, but it's their completely abnormal message that is moving a generation to rise from lethargy and into faithfulness.

My heart rises within me as I write this, and suddenly I am wishing to once more be back in that Town Hall, sitting with all of those enthusiastic young people thinking, dreaming, planning; laughing. I don't wonder why I get tired of spending time with people who have no purpose, who despise youth, and who think the idea of doing hard things is just a joke. There is a selfish part of me that wishes my world didn't have to be filled with pessimistic people, but rather inspirational. But wait. My world is filled with inspirational people. My eyes are too often blinded to them - and by the idea that there are always more inspirational people elsewhere.

We celebrated the end of our week (or nearly the end of it) with a formal party. Glimmering gowns, perfect tuxes and a high idea of formal ran through our little camp that night. And of course, I forgot my camera. Every photograph I want from that event I'll have to mooch off of my friends.

The young man my sister and I supported was elected president - but not without a close vote. An independent party came very close to winning, much to every one's surprise. I clearly recall jumping to my feet in ecstasy. High ecstasy. And mostly because of the story that backed up why we supported who we did.

We had just jumped on our flight connection in Minneapolis for D.C.. Rachel and I were sitting together - she in an aisle seat and me by the window. We hadn't even taken off when Rachel jabbed me in the ribs and whispered, "Sarah - see that kid over there?"

I nod and look where she points. A young man of about sixteen is animatedly engaged in talking with an elderly black gentleman. "Yes, I see him," I reply.

"He's home schooled."

I gaze at my sister in amazement. She never studies people like I do. I've always considered myself an observer of people and here is my little sister informing of someone I never once observed. "Uh - how do you know?"

She smiles. "Just look at the way he's conversing with that gentleman. He has to be a home schooler."

I return her smile and settle back into my seat, gazing out my window at the wispy clouds clinging to the wing of the airplane and the sun, straining to peak through them with bright rays. I'm imagining that I'm writing. The blue sky covered us like a warm blanket...

Jam! Rachel has her elbow in my ribs again. "See! I told you he was a homeschooler. He's talking politics." A moment later, she abrubtly calls my attention to him again. "He just mentioned GenJ and Patrick Henry! Sarah - he's going!"

We're girls. We wave at him from across the aisle, thumbs up with big smiles. It didn't really matter because he didn't see us, anyway. But all that to say, we considered it a special thing that we ended up sharing the same flight there, that we were able to campaign with him, and rejoice with him when he won the presidential election that week.

Washington, DC. The very act of mentioning the name of that beautiful city sends waves of chills through me. I can think of no greater place to be than there, our nation's capital, on its great birthday. I expected great things, but came away walking on clouds.

We walked in the great footsteps of the people who lead the greatest nation in the world. We gazed at monuments, tall and splendid, who grace the sky and do beautiful justice to the sun shining down upon them. My heart both sank and rose with every step in that great city. I remember it, and embrace the feeling once more.

I had been there before, and I'm sure I'll be there again, but I'm sure I'll never quite be there as I was this time. Surrounded by laughing, enthusiastic young people - as eager to devour history as myself - I had to pinch myself at times to make sure I wasn't dreaming. In fact, at times when everyone else had walked ahead on the streets, under the sun and tall shadows, skipping and laughing, I'd stop. I'd throw my head back and let my face be kissed by the warmth of the sun, my hair blowing in the wind, and I'd embrace the moment with everything in me. I wanted it to take such a deep root in my heart that I'd never forget it, never let it go, and carry it with me forever. This is the land I love.

After a day of walking in the shadows of the past, we ended it with a long walk to the Jefferson Memorial. It began to rain, so we quickened our pace with prayers in our hearts - asking God to bless us with decent weather for the firework celebration. People everywhere blocked my vision as we struggled on, but very soon I peeped over tall heads in our group and saw the Jefferson Memorial - clear against the sky, breathtaking in architecture, glorious in story, beautiful in providence, unforgettable in sight.

Our group gathered on the steps of the great monument just as dusk was falling. The darkness settled quickly, covering our warm bodies like a blanket. And then it began to rain. At first it sprinkled, but as seconds whizzed by, it picked up speed and gained momentum, soon immersing us in a literal shower. We sat there, under the darkness, surrounded by a fast growing crowd, getting drenched by an eastern rain shower, and loving every minute of it. Would the fireworks happen? Who cared! We were having a blast sitting, laughing, joking, musing, smiling, watching - in the rain.

Regardless of the fun I felt we were having, my heart ran with thoughts. I observed the many little children wrapped to the teeth in rain ponchos or huddled underneath large umbrellas (which reminded me of the wings of a mother hen, protectively covering her chicks) sitting, watching the sky with intent, blinking little eyes, appearing as if their little minds were uttering a thousand-and-one silent prayers for the rain to stop. I grabbed the hand of my sister next to me, and we quickly offered a prayer that the rain would stop and the fireworks would be able to go on.

Minutes later, the rain stopped.

When the fireworks began, it was as if they were about to end. Exploding rays of light rushed to the sky and showered down - it seemed - upon us. In a breathless second a rocket would travel up, up, up into the darkness, and another split second and colors of impossible variety were stretching across the sky. Fingers of color, showers of sparkle; fountains of gold. The reflection of the show danced in my sister's eyes, and my heart rose to the highest peak imaginable.

I could have sat there forever. My feet in a puddle of rain and my hands tightly together on my lap, my heart took in the beauty in context of the week I'd just experienced. From the first moment when I'd been surprised at the friendliness of the people, to my first experience in mock legislation and congress, to the very first speaker who spoke to us, to the very last speaker who spoke to us, to the moment of victory in the presidential race, to this moment - this beautiful moment - when it was all coming together like the end of a fairy tale.

But I snap myself out of my drifting thoughts and glance around at my many friends, sitting under the same sky, in the same place, on the same steps, watching the same, magnificent sight. I don't know what they're thinking, but I can guess. I see laughter in one person's eyes, deep thankfulness in another's, happiness in this one's; depth in that one's.

And now I remember why I have loved this time so much. Something like a sob rises within me as I think about the lives that we - these young people - have before us. We will go home, we will live our lives, but something tells me that they'll be changed. These young people sitting here with me on these great, white steps, represent a great generation of world changers. That's what I see in their eyes collectively. It sparkles brighter than the fireworks that display it; it shimmers more gloriously than the sun itself. It's a fire, a call, a holy desire; a vision. It comes to me in the form of a sentence, and my heart, again, embraces it.

We will change the world.

It is like the melody of a beautiful song, accented by the deep harmony of belief and the orchestra of inspiration, a rising song lifted to the sky proclaiming the glory of the Most High.

Hello, world. This is my generation.


Lady Ruth Ann said...

wow inspiring!! I love reading what you write :) Sounds like it was such an excellent time!!! I'm so glad that you & your sister got to go!!

Leah said...

Hello over there, my fellow world changer! :) This was beautiful... so well written!

lisa said...

Hello Sarah... you might not remember me; my name is Lisa & I met you at Leah's grad party. While browsing her blog tonight I decided to stop by yours and I'm glad I did! Your explanation in "My Life Song" was convicting and convicing. (You posted this awhile ago but I wanted you to see this comment.) I also was recently convicted of my purpose to "Change the world." My new line is "I want to see the world changed for Jesus Christ." If He chooses to use me in a visible, crowd-impressing manner, so be it. Until then I will accept His grace to glorify (reveal) Him by faithfulness in "little" things. Thank you for articulating this for the world.

Would you be willing to let me copy your article for my personal collection?

Leah has my e-mail address if you would rather get in touch that way.

Blessings to you!
A sister, Lisa, who actully got a real live hug from Leah today!

Sarah Byrum said...

Ruth Ann and Leah: thank you for your encouragement! You are both great cheerleaders. =)

Thank you for those thoughts, Lisa! I do remember you. :)

You are more than welcome to use my writing for your personal use. :) Thank you for being thoughtful in asking.

May God bless you and help you as you change the world in your own way and with His power.


Anonymous said...

What fun to read about your trip and how it touched your life, Sarah!

much love,
Mrs. D.

Michael Spotts: . said...

Interesting posts and world view, Sarah; your thoughts are encouraging in many ways.

May I may leave you with an edifying bit of Augustine?

"He loves Thee too little, who loves anything besides Thee which he does not love for Thee."

Keep loving your country and world, for Christ's sake. Use all means faithfully, letting your faith be in the sovereignty of God to accomplish all He intends.

Michael Spotts:.