The letter my family’s been waiting for has just arrived. Nine months after starting the citizenship process, we’ve been asked to attend the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids on 15 March for a “Naturalization Oath Ceremony to complete the naturalization process.” Yes, we’ve been approved for U.S. citizenship! Why have we taken this massive step?
When I came here 10 years ago with my family to serve at Puritan Reformed Seminary, I arrived with a deep sense of divine calling. Far from diminishing, the sense of call to serve here has only strengthened over the past decade. As a pastor, I’d never say “never” about returning to Scotland or moving to another country. If God calls, I must obey. However, at age 51 it’s looking less and less likely that another major life change like that is around the corner.
My oldest son, Allan, is already an American citizen by virtue of joining the Marine Corps last year. My youngest son, Scot, is also an American citizen, having been born here three years ago. All five of my kids are just about completely “Americanized,” with only the bare remnants of their Scottish accent remaining (sigh!). Their lives are going to be lived here. They are also very much at home in the Dutch Reformed churches here in Grand Rapids. It’s a strong and stable Christian culture that they and we are privileged to be part of.
While Green Card status is usually renewed quite easily every 10 years, you just never know what might be down the road. Last year, I was concerned about how a possible Clinton administration might view non-citizens who held biblical views on various issues. Getting citizenship provides extra security regarding our status here.
I want to be able to truly and fully say “our nation” and “our military” when I pray in my congregation. I want my congregation to know that I am 100% committed to them and to this country. I want to be able to vote and take a full part in the electoral process.
I’ve had Americans ask “Why would you want to do that?” when they have heard about our citizenship application. Some of them are incredulous. They can’t quite believe that we’d give up our British citizenship to become Americans. It’s like a major step down in their eyes.
I don’t view it that way at all. For all that I still love Scotland, and always will, I can honestly say that I now love America more. I know it’s a far from perfect country, but I love its basic ideals, its optimism, its energy, its entrepreneurship, its “lively” democracy, its real summers and real winters (not just warm rain and cold rain), its meritocracy, its racial diversity, and the multiple opportunities to serve the Lord. The only thing I really detest is the mainstream media. I didn’t think it was possible, but they are even worse than their British counterparts.
I’ll never forget Scotland. My heart breaks for the spiritual desert that it’s becoming. I weep for the faithful Scottish pastors ministering in an extremely discouraging climate and culture. My eyes still mist over when I see photos of the Scottish hills or hear the bagpipes. But God has moved my heart across the Atlantic and I love this country now as deeply as I ever loved Scotland in the past.
Tears and Fears
On March 15, when I raise my right hand to renounce my British citizenship and pledge allegiance to the USA, there will be some tears I’m sure. It’s a solemn decision that I already feel the weight of. I sometimes think I hear William Wallace turning in his grave. Just hope I never meet Mel Gibson.
But I’ll also be singing amidst the tears; singing my own version of the popular song, with my edited line being: “I’m humbled to be an American.”
And no, I won’t be wearing a kilt. I don’t have the legs for it.