“God()mend thine every flaw…”

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The parentheses are intentional and would include the words “help us” if the lyric allowed. Mending is not His job; it’s ours.

In a January blog (#mypresident, #because), the line in today’s title wasn’t the focus, just a reference. More relevant, probably, was the part of the verse that added “Confirm thy soul in self-control/Thy liberty in law!” The year 2020 had by any estimation been a rough year. You know the details. It’s only human nature to move on and (if not forget) to explain. Indeed, the operative word was probably “self-control.” I can’t think of any other lyrics with that phrase.

God is petitioned elsewhere in the poem to “shed His grace on thee,” “crown thy good with brotherhood,” and “thy gold refine.” These seem actions for the Almighty. Somehow, “mend” is different.

Usually, it’s a word we use to mean “repair” or “correct” or “improve.” Socks get mended (well, used to) and bones mend, a fascinating process. In this case, however, the word doesn’t seem quite right. The reason? Mending flaws is something WE (lots of emphasis added) should be doing, and that not by divine intervention. This article offers four things to do, simple and to the point. The author, Seth Cohen, founded Applied Optimism and writes with specificity and insigh in the Forbes article. His first suggestion is “soften your heart,” an injunction found in most religions. Other articles exist, of course, but the ones easily googled seemed slanted at best.

Here is another idea to consider: Know thy country. The aphorism “Know thyself” has a long and wide-ranging history. Most of us aren’t even particularly good at that. We might know what flavor of ice cream we prefer, what insect we fear. Change, though, is hard. We’re prone to say “Well, this is how I am” when confronted with flaws. The effort of change—even if acknowledged as needed—requires more than most of us can usually manage. Our country, however, exists in writing as well as lived experience. Links to the founding documents are easy to find and have been given before. The differences can be explained with “should” and “shall.”

First, a “should.” The positioning of flags on Monday, May 31 should happen a certain way. They are raised quickly to the top of the flagpole, then lowered to half-staff slowly (or, more accurately, briskly up and ceremoniously down). At noon, they are returned to full staff. The morning honors the dead; the afternoon, the living. The instructions are all “should” and “should not”s, not musts and must nots; for a comprehensive discussion, see here. USC Title 4, §6a, for Memorial Day and others. Here is a summary of the traditions. The entire United States Code, the document in which laws are codified, is here. 

Now to some “shall” and “shall not” sections of the Bill of Rights. Amendment I: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Amendment IV: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” These are not traditions. They are framework, instructions, foundation.

When the Constitution has needed mending (amending), the process has been in place to do so (Article V of the Constitution). Changes are by design difficult and ponderous. Although Emily Dickinson said, “If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves,” I disagree vehemently. This object lesson fits, literally (large rocks, then pebbles, then sand into a jar) and can be observed here. The structure of our country works that way as well: a solid scaffolding, a method for alterations when needed.

This Memorial Day, in the afternoon, you may or may not see flags at full-staff again. That’s just a matter of knowing a “should.” The mending, the changing, begins with—but does not stay with—our hearts. We, too, can be deliberate in our changes, acting and speaking with care and conscience, based on knowledge and conviction. We are truly here (elsewhere and everywhere) the hands God uses for the mending.

 

 

 

 

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