Yesterday, we spent the holiday in New Albany, Indiana / Louisville, Kentucky with our oldest daughter. She is interning up there this summer and was set to spend the 4th alone. My mamma heart couldn’t have it, so we loaded the two younger sisters in the car and took the trip north up I-65.
We didn’t do anything particular patriotic at all. We ate tacos for lunch and sub Sammies for dinner. We drove around Wally’s seminary stomping grounds and spent more time than money at the Lego Store in the Oxmoor Mall. The only traditional Independence Day thing we did happened after we left our oldest. It was on the way home, the trip south down I-65.
As the digital clock on the dash ticked closer to 9 pm and the sun sank below the horizon on our right, the fireworks started. While we “missed” any official show, the one we saw will be one that I will not soon forget. We were passing through the exits of Bowling Green when we started exclaiming, “Look! Over there! On your right!” “Through the trees on your left!” “Wow! That one was close!”
My youngest sang the only parts of Katy Perry’s “Firework” that she knew, on repeat. My middle started FaceTiming her BFF, trying to include her in the sights, sounds and smells of the rockets’ colorful explosions filling the panoramic scene around us. Even though we were in the car, traveling interstate speeds, I felt my chest swell with pride and commented to my husband that I could understand how celebrating this day could trigger PTSD responses in even our bravest heroes.
I tried to soak in the moments, knowing that maybe even next July, my little family may not get to spend the holiday together. I prayed a little prayer thanking God for the graces of the day and sought to think a little deeper. What lesson could be here for me learn? What truth could God want me to focus on?
I thought about how we as Christians are called to shine like lights in dark places, but quickly knew that I couldn’t equate Christians to fireworks – fireworks fade to quickly. Soon, as we pulled back into Clarksville, I called our oldest to let her know we had made it home safe. She was watching Hamilton on Disney+, because, as she explained it was a good way to celebrate the 4th – watching the first act, about the Revolution and how we gained our independence.
That was the word that the Spirit seemed to make “sticky”: independence. As an American, I take pride in my national independence. As a parent, I only have to look to my three daughters to see the innate desire each of them has to be independent. As they grow into adulthood, I know their independence is a good thing. But, As a Christian, I am not convinced that independence is a good thing.
I cannot independently earn my salvation. I cannot independently grow in my relationship with Christ. I cannot independently worship or fellowship or be held accountable. I am dependent on Christ for my salvation. I am dependent on the Spirit to complete the good work He began in me. I am dependent on my church family because God designed me that way.
In fact, He designed and designated us all to operate that way. The Father created us to need to know and be known by Him and His Bride, the Church. He made each of us and all of these relationships possible. As our Creator and Sustainer, We are completely dependent on Him for everything – identity, purpose, future,- even our next breath and heart beat.
We want to claim our independence. We want to do it ourselves. We want to believe that we know best – best for ourselves and those we love – but, all it takes is a phone call, a dropped phrase, or an off-handed comment to make us doubt, or better yet, force us to acknowledge that we are completely dependent on the ONE who holds it all together in the first place.
After all, it is by God’s good grace alone that I was born American and have all the rights and privileges that entails. I am free to worship. I can write this blog. I am able to pursue Christ as He leads me. I treasure living next to an Army post and breathing the same air as heroic soldiers, veterans and their families.
I have always loved this summer holiday. I will proudly wave the flag and continue to exercise my right to vote. Yes, I am proud to be an American and to be independent. But, I am humbled to be a Christian and to be completely dependent.
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