Today is a national holiday in America - Independence Day. Colloquially known as the Fourth of July (you know, in case that big word "independence" trips you up). Across the country, people will celebrate the day 236 years ago that a few brave men declared freedom for a barely-settled territory that expanded into this vast nation we now call America.
With all of our problems here, the things we haven't figure out yet about living together, the politics we argue about in capitol buildings and living rooms across fifty states (and a handful of territories), the social inequalities we haven't balanced out, the lifestyle choices and differences of opinion that keep us conversing, debating, arguing, and often hating each other...we'll still celebrate what it is to have the freedom today in this place to be working those things out. Because we know there are a lot of places where freedom does not reign.
Is one of those places your heart?
On this Independence Day, are you looking for a little freedom yourself?
I know, I know - it's not New Years. This isn't the time we make resolutions. But couldn't we? Couldn't we take this opportunity, in the vast glory that is the summer sun (but a little too much sun this year, Lord) and the long days and the vacations and the energies that just aren't there on a cold winter's night, couldn't we take this day to resolve our bound hearts, too, and declare independence?
Freedom isn't easy. For any of us that have known what it is to have our hearts caught in the vice grips of anything less than love, it's easier said than done. Today, though, we have an example. An example of men who knew it had to be done.
These men drew up a formal statement. Pretty much the equivalent of a restraining order. "America is our land, and your iron fist, oh king, does not rule here. Hands off." Then they used whatever time they had while the message crossed the ocean and back to brace themselves for battle. Because even these men knew freedom doesn't come so easy; you have to fight for it. They weren't so naive as to think a simple sentence - "by the way, we're free" - would hold off the powers of the English monarchy. But they had tasted what it was to not live that way any more, and that was worth fighting for.
Before you pick the fight, you have to know what you're standing against. You have to know what you refuse to stand any more and stand for something different. You have to brace yourself with visions of the aftermath - what would it mean if the mighty king of England really had no say in America - and let that vision drive you. This will hold you strong in the moments, the months, the years that seem to drag on in battle. It will remind you what you're fighting for...and why you're willing to die for a chance to taste that.
That's how our Founding Fathers did it; that's how our Loving Father did it. He dared to dream of a world reconciled to Himself and found us worth fighting for. He found our freedom worth fighting for, that we could be free to love Him. He drew up a formal statement, a notice to the powers of this world that this is His land and their iron fist does not rule here. Hands off. Then He nailed that proclamation to a cross so that everyone could read His Word. And don't you know? He's been fighting for us. He is willing to fight - even to die - for this freedom that we could choose Him.
Still, we know our hearts are sometimes bound. By the obvious, by the unexpected, by the grand things and the insignificant. There are things within us and we don't feel free. What better day than this to go after them? What better time than now to declare our independence?
I encourage you today, amidst backyard barbecues, picnics in the park, bonfires, pools, and fireworks, to take a moment an celebrate your independence. Granted by a piece of paper sailed across an ocean...and by a proclamation nailed to a cross. And if there's something holding you back, take today to declare your independence. Craft a formal statement. Put it in your heart and eyes what you see life like without a gremlin's control of your life. You have every right to be free; our Father says so. Today, proclaim it. "Spirit of [brokenness, shame, grief, anger, hate, depression, loneliness, abandonment, _______], this is a notice that this is my heart, my body, my life and your iron fist, oh wicked presence, does not rule here. Hands off." Taste what it is to not live that way any more. Let yourself experience that freedom. And know there's probably a fight coming, but let your vision fuel you for the battle. You'll know, in just a taste, that it's absolutely worth fighting for.
And when darkness falls, head outside and blow something up. Because that's part of what we do today, too. Boom! Let the glory of your independence pierce the darkness and light up the night.
Happy Fourth, America. And Happy Independence Day.