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Celebrating National Ellis Island Family History Day (April 17): those historic journeys parallel now your and my journey from "self"

April 18, 2018


Celebrating National Ellis Island Family History Day (April 17): those historic journeys parallel now your and my journey from "self"


Tuesday, April 17th was not just "Tax Day" across the U.S.; it was also National Ellis Island Family History Day. On that day in 1907, the largest single number of immigrants (11,747) were processed through that 27-acre island in New York Harbor, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty.


From 1892 to 1954, 12 million immigrants -- most notably Albert Einstein, Bob Hope, Cary Grant, Irving Berlin, Harlem Renaissance writer Claude McKay and Kwame Nkrumah, first president of independent Ghana -- entered the U.S. to begin their journeys to new, better lives.


Today, more than 40% of Americans -- approximately 130 million people -- can trace their heritage through that chief U.S. immigration station.


Although Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty are less than a mile apart, each nonetheless represents distinct phases of the journey to U.S. citizenship:


  • Lady Liberty represented the ultimate goal of freedom, or the "what"; but

  • For more than 60 years, Ellis Island stood for the process, the "how," for those 12 million immigrants to obtain that freedom from their past.


Even though some 350 babies were actually born on Ellis Island during that process, it was not to be the final home for these newborns or their families. As a port of disembarkation, Ellis Island was merely a milepost, albeit the first "rest area," for these first-time U.S. visitors. Although these travelers brought with them all of their possessions en route to this first U.S. stop they could not, for example, plant gardens there or hang curtains or family mementos on its walls - why? - because Ellis Island was just the springboard, only the first step, in launching them to their ultimate goal, freedom, symbolized by the Statue of Liberty.


The same holds true today when you and I consider any pursuit that begins with the word "self": self-esteem, self-worth, self-confidence, self-development, self-image, etc.


As you and I pursue our paths toward freedom and recovering from the old chains that once held or may still hold us hostage -- e.g., pride, arrogance, low-esteem or just plain 'ol sin! - remember for many of us our Ellis Island ancestors: they could only stop briefly at that port of disembarkation; could not stay there indefinitely - on average, three to five hours for individual inspections and medical/physical screenings; and then they needed to move on to their ultimate goal of freedom and journey toward opportunity in "one nation under God."


Yes, as you and I begin our recovering processes -- i.e., healing and freeing ourselves from the heavy chains that kept or continue to keep us enslaved to sin -- that first important and necessary step toward freedom will be the pursuit of the "self's": self-esteem, self-love, self-image, self-development, self-confidence, etc.


But those "self's" are at their very best only the first steps, and too many of us get comfortable and stuck there indefinitely.


Remember: any pursuit that starts (and ends) with "self" is ultimately a dead-end street. Your and my end-goal should not be, for example, self-confidence, but God-confidence - belief and ultimate security in the all-knowing/-loving God; not self-esteem, but rather Christ-esteem, knowing that "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13, NKJV).


Let's face it: it's the pursuit of "self" that keeps us mired continually in its quicksand.


It's time now to break free from self.


Remember: let's start at your and my “Ellis Islands,” but then you and I must move rapidly to our “Statues of Liberty”!


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