This may be Independence Day, but I’m far from independent; I depend on the stability of this most nurturing of all nations. I’m dependent on God. I’m dependent on all of you. That must be acknowledged.
But I am free -- I can choose what I want to do with my days --- I’m sitting here in an old chair that was my mothers; my laptop is toasting my leg while I finish this post. Later Tom and I will walk down to the park for the 4th of July celebration, then I might go out and climb into the blue and white striped hammock under the catalpa tree and read a while. Sometime this afternoon I’ll bake that peach pie for the party tonight. Tomorrow I’ll choose something else. My life is like that.
Even when I’m teaching I have lots of choice about what I’ll teach when, about when I’ll actually read those papers I assigned, about what I’ll do when I’m done. I’m not rich by American standards, not at all, but I am rich if you look at the big picture.
Most lives lived by most people who have existed on this earth have not been even close to the abundance we enjoy. Most have had to work non-stop from sun-up to sundown just to gather enough to eat for the day. That statement is not overly dramatic – it’s the truth.
Imagine being the wife of an Anglo-Saxon warrior huddled around a smoky fire pounding grain into flour or roasting a rabbit over the open flame. Or picture eking out a living in the rice paddies of the Ming dynasty never knowing when the next uprising would bring the savage vengeance of the warlords to your village. Almost any scenario you dream up involves misery, danger, hunger, and servitude.
Being American is new and amazing. Two things make the lives of Americans vastly different than the rest of the world, past and present, and both are derived from God. We were created free to choose Him and we were created free (because of the inherent abilities God gave us) to become prosperous enough to enjoy our lives. “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10
In America I have been free to know God. His Word has been readily available; I haven’t had to risk my life to study it. I live in a country founded on the idea of Truth (“We hold these truths to be self-evident…”) and though scoffing at that concept is trendy right now, much of our prosperity comes from the trust that a belief in Truth provides.
I live in a society that has been aimed at God’s perfect Justice; we haven’t achieved it, but as long as that is our value we will edge ever closer to it, and in that environment we are free to pursue the ideas, inventions, and creations God gives us.
I live in a country where righteousness has been the norm – that is fading and it scares me, but we are still capable of horror at some of the behaviors of the powerful, the famous, and the misguided, and perhaps we will one day return to holding ourselves, our friends, our families and our elected officials to His holy standard of goodness.
These concepts have given us freedoms that have produced a prosperity greater than any the world has ever known. I have more in the way of comfort, health, pleasure, and happiness than kings ever used to have. I am free to putter away this glorious day because I can afford it. I’m confident about my next meal, about the temperature of my environs, the cleanliness of my clothes, the adequacy and safety of the water I’ll consume. I have enough – of everything.
In a sense I earned it; my husband and I have worked hard all our lives. But so did the folks in the rice paddies and all it got them was an early grave.
I have had the blessing of working hard in a system that rewards me for doing so and encourages me to work inventively and efficiently. Everyone else in this country has had that advantage, which has produced all the things that currently make my life pleasant instead of the historical norm of steady suffering.
On this 4th of July let us celebrate the dual freedoms of this amazing country – the freedom to truly know God and the freedom that freedom itself brings – the freedom from the drudgery of life lived just to stay alive. Let us make this holiday another Thanksgiving.
I could live in Egypt – but not safely or prosperously since I’m a Christian. I could live in a crowded dormitory in China and work at what they tell me to do. I could live in the malaria-infested jungles of Africa, the barren steppes of northern Russia, the tumultuous streets of a crumbling Greece. But I don’t. I live in America, the most blessed nation of the world. If the forces of evil, both within and without, have their way, it won’t be for long.
We are free today, so free that it feels like it floats, but wherever freedom has struggled to the surface, it has lasted a very short time. Let us take a moment and be profoundly grateful for the choices we still have today.