As I sat with the family to watch the Republican National Convention, I was moved and drawn up short by Senator Marco Rubio’s speech. Everything his grandfather and parents said to him about America was almost word for word what my father used to say to me when I was younger and we immigrated to America.
Unlike Marco Rubio, I’m not a senator, and it’s likely that I never will be, but he and I both live lives enjoying the blessings and opportunities God has given us in this country, with the special appreciation that comes from immigrants or their children. Immigrants, as I have written before, come to America from diverse backgrounds and experiences, but they share some important characteristics, usually an insatiable desire to pursue goals and dreams (like my little website with a couple hundred readers and 50-something Facebook likes… some might say, “give up already!”) through hard work, and American idealism.
My father came to this country to get away from what he saw was going to be an oppressive regime—Saddam Hussein. He brought me and my sister to this country to have a chance at a good education and to have opportunities he didn’t have in Iraq. I remember him telling me I could be anything I wanted to be in America. I remember how he used to shake his head and say that sometimes Americans don’t know how good they have it in this country and they squander opportunities.
For some immigrants, “being anything you want” is actually a rather limited concept. For much of my adolescence, I lived as if my life choices were either to be a doctor or dentist. Mid-way through college, I changed my major and got my degree in physics. Later, when I opted to go to law school instead of pursuing a Ph.D. in physics, my parents were overjoyed at the future prospects. I was going to live the immigrant life they dreamed of. I think that my later commitment to be a stay-at-home-mom was extremely difficult for my parents; not because of any kind of feministic ideals on their part, but because of their immigrant dreams and ideals. Although they have come to respect our decision, at the time they saw it as me squandering an opportunity God gave us by bringing us to this country.
I am very grateful God made a way for my parents to come to this country, and I am very grateful that the Lord has made it possible for me to become a stay-at-home-mom. I do try to find ways to keep some of those immigrant characteristics and ideals, in my own life and in what we teach our children, but without them superseding my commitment to Christ.
The “sky’s the limit” opportunities that Americans focus on can easily become idols, as can our elected officials, as can our founding documents, and even the very structure of government under which we live. If government truly was our god, the stakes in any election would be much higher. Thankfully, we are not voting for savior, or electing our gods, but merely civil servants.