My daughter is practicing “The Star-Spangled Banner” on her violin this morning. The melody fills the house and gently wafts down the street as she carefully learns each note in preparation for an upcoming outdoor patriotic concert.
“These bowings aren’t making sense to me,” she complained. Taking her instrument, I demonstrate a couple lines for her.
“Here’s your problem. This section is played lightly with less pressure. See here? You should find the passage easier like this.” I play through the familiar piece with ease, then she copies me. “Great job!”
I have performed the national anthem countless times in orchestras across the country, and we have all sung the words at many patriotic, sporting, and school events throughout our lives. Like my violin rendition, it can become rote, just an ordinary ritual we take part in with little thought.
Because these words memorialize the distinction between life and death, between tyranny and freedom, between colony and nation, between old ways and new life. This is the national hymn of who we are.
Climbing the stairs, I realize how much I took for granted my understanding of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I’ve played it so much, I’ve sung the words so many times that I don’t give it much thought. But my daughter needed to be taught. She won’t understand the significance of the piece—and how to communicate it to others—unless I teach her.
Homeschooling, we all know, is more than just transferring facts from parent to child. It is much larger than the sum of our worksheets or the weight of our textbooks. It’s about understanding, it’s about wisdom, it’s about life changes because of what we know. Because of Who we know.
[Tweet “Our National Hymn is about the God in Whom we trust, the power of prayer, and extraordinary grace.”]
Our National Hymn is about that, too. It’s about the God in Whom we trust, the same God who delivered ordinary men and women from oppression to serve Him in true freedom. It’s about the power of prayer, the cries for help from leaders and soldiers and mothers and slaves. It’s about the extraordinary grace God gave to common people. It’s about the birth of a land for the free and a home for the brave.
These lessons are just as remarkable today. When the news is dominated by violence and hate, when the public rhetoric is divisive and crude, when the morals of our community disintegrate all around us, when the Christians we know are divided by labels and disagreement—does God still bless our land?
I turn to the final stanza of the hymn, asking Francis Scott Key for advice from the past. Is it over? Is hope lost for our nation? Are the “good old days” so far removed that God no longer smiles upon Americans? The author calls out to us through the fog of that long-ago war with a rallying cry for faith. Instead of fear, instead of resignation, instead of discouragement, he urges us to continue our fight for freedom: “Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land/Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.”
Returning to my bedroom, I get my own instrument out of its case. It’s time to practice. It’s time to pray for my country. It’s time to share with my children the remarkable truth—“in God is our trust.”
[tweet “It’s time to pray for my country. It’s time to share with my children the remarkable truth…”]
Are you ready to share this lesson with your family, too? Be sure to read the entire four stanzas together and discuss the lessons Francis Scott Key shares with us. And here’s a background video explaining the history of this great national hymn: