On November 25, 1805, the thirty weather-beaten, weary, and half-starved members of the Corps of Discovery faced their greatest crisis.
They had traveled 4,000 miles by land from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. They were desperate for supplies. They were banking their survival on the ships that routinely sailed up the Columbia River to trade with the Indians. But instead of beholding the aqua blue jewel of the Pacific with ships filling the horizon, a “tumultuous and terrible” ocean confronted them. And not a single ship ever came. And so, they named the dreary place Cape Disappointment.
Yet in that desperate hour, when escaping starvation and discouragement depended on teamwork, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark did something extraordinary. To determine their next move—where to spend the winter—they would take a vote. Everyone would have an equal say in the destiny of the group: the two officers, the enlisted men, the French trapper Charbonneau, his Shoshone Indian wife Sacagawea, and William Clark’s black slave, York. Therefore, all of them would decide the fate of the group.
They voted to establish a fort among the Clatsop Indians—which turned out to be the wisest of their choices—and probably saved their lives. But the decision was not near as significant as the equality exercised in reaching it. Neither an executive order nor legislature made each member of the group equal. It was their mutual hardships, their common adversity, and their binding together as a team that removed all rank, racial, and gender barriers. They simply realized their survival depended on each and every one of them pulling together for the common good. For this reason, it was a distinctively American moment.
Our nation finds itself in a time of crisis. Besides our economic challenges and the threat of terrorism, ideological differences, sexism, and racism threaten to rip us apart. Americans have bound themselves together before to survive. And by the grace of God we can do it again.
God has the power to heal our wounded hearts and his love can melt away our bitterness. His peace can flood our hearts and drive away our fears—if we will only seek His help.
“If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then shall I hear from heaven and forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).
Dear Father in heaven, please bless America and help it in its time of trouble. Mend America’s every flaw and heal our divisions. Turn our hearts to You in faith and repentance and to each other in love and reconciliation. Please grant heavenly wisdom and direction to our leaders, that they lead us on the path of righteousness, for “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Amen.