I cannot believe it is already the beginning of July! Seems like we just celebrated Mother’s Day and now it’s time bring on the fireworks and barbecues!
I am a huge fan of fireworks and the celebration of our country. If there is really such a thing as past lives, I swear I must have been a soldier or somehow tied to the military because the patriotic songs and spirit that comes with 4th of July celebrations always makes my heart swell and my eyes leak. I believe that we as a nation have much to be thankful for and rejoice in but it is also important for us to remember that neither freedom nor independence is something that comes without cost. As I think about this upcoming holiday I can’t help but be reminded that thousands have sacrificed their lives and continue to sacrifice so that I may have the freedom to even type this post and I am forever in their debt.
We are a fiercely independent nation. Not only are we not ruled or tied to another nation, but we are independent in the way we live, work and raise our children. That sense of independence – being able to reach for and obtain a dream – is what has made America great. Unfortunately, as I look around our amazing country, I see that focus has been slowly been replaced a focus on “self”. Success is no longer about a scrappy immigrant coming to our nation and building a successful business with the sweat of his brow and the support of his faith and family, but about pushing, shoving, and climbing that ladder of success regardless of the cost to anyone else. The “I don’t need anyone to get what I want” mentality has been molded and formed to perfection over the past 240 years and I don’t expect this to change any time soon.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t see independence itself as a bad thing. I mean, I’m fairly certain nobody reading this would be a surprised to hear that I am a fiercely independent person. I grew up as a latch-key kid (for those of you too young to know what that is, it meant that I was home alone after school due to working parents) and quickly learned how to fend for myself regardless of the situation. To me, the skills I learned growing up the way I did helped me to be more creative and adaptable. They have also helped me get through some extremely difficult personal times.
When my ex-husband and I separated 10 years ago, I was left with literally nothing – no
job, no money, no home, and virtually no support system. My independent spirit helped me find ways to dig myself out while my faith strengthened me. I was able to pull myself up by my bootstraps and claw my way back out of the hole I found myself in. The sense of accomplishment I felt when I found myself on the other side of that challenge was greater than perhaps any other I have felt before or since. I literally praise God for it every day.
Needless to say, I am forever grateful for my independent nature. But there seems to be a growing problem with the way we personally identify with independence today and this has created a crisis of faith that has affected the entire nation.
By definition, independence means that one is free from “the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others,”(dictionary.com). Taken literally, this very definition removes the authority of God from our lives making each of us the center of our own little universes. As I look at our society today, it seems clear to me that this is the image of independence and freedom that we have been rapidly moving toward.
No longer do we as a country or as individuals long to be controlled by rules, mores, or (heaven forbid) religious ideology. We want to be able to not only believe what we want to but also to have the “freedom” to abuse those who do not think the same way or join the battle we have chosen for the moment. Our nation is so fiercely focused on individual freedom and independence that we have effectively created a nation of 300 million individual countries.
Sound ideal or terrifying?
To me, it sounds not only terrifying, but heartbreaking.
God did not create us to be independent but dependent on Him and His guidelines for our lives. We are made to be in communion with one another – leaning on each other, loving each other, and learning from each other so that we can all grow in faith and community and thus glorify the God that placed us here. Instead, we have returned ourselves to the slavery from which God released us.
I know. You’re saying “I’m not a slave! I’m free! I can make my own decisions, do what I want and live the life I want!” While that all sounds wonderful, I don’t believe this is true.
We are now enslaved not by physical chains, but by the chains of pride, greed, and selfishness and we are so weighed down by these chains that we often can’t even see that this ever-increasing charge toward independence has left tremendous carnage in its wake.
Our own identities have become so beaten down by the charge that we are often no longer able to recognize ourselves. We reach for others but the chains we have created are so large and convoluted they have become like barricades around us keeping not only our friends and family from us, but God. Our self-focus has made us each feel isolated and alone.
We have achieved true “independence” and we are ruined because of it.
If you find yourself in this carnage, please know that you are not alone. God has not lost sight of you. He is there to minister to you, to release you from your chains, and to bring you to true freedom that can only be found in Him. The best part is, you don’t have to do this alone. Instead, you, like me, can move back toward dependence.
Dependence on one another to carry us toward the goals we have on the horizon and on the wisdom of God to show us if these goals are His.
Dependence on our community to stand together in times of distress and the faith to know that even in the darkest times, God is with us and will provide a lamp for our feet through His Word, His disciples and His grace and mercy.
As you get ready to celebrate the birth of our nation, I sincerely hope that you will also celebrate a return to God-dependence and break free from the chains we have all created. If you feel you have nobody to walk with you through this jouney, reach out to me and let’s walk it together.