There is so much I could write about this weekend. The nieces and nephews, the World Cup, "taco night" at Maul Hall, why I enjoy the heck out of mowing and edging, July 4th...
But I guess it's all about July 4, really. This is something I've been getting more and more sure about since my first official "fourth" celebration (that happened to be in Philadelphia) in 1976. Today, more than 34 years into my American journey, I can say "Happy 234th, USA", and actually know a little bit about the subject.
That's why I included a picture of me with my niece Sarah and my nephew Jared (and their dog, Duncan), taken earlier today. Because July fourth is - really - all about what we've been up to this week.
The fourth is not about war, or military, or politics, or religion. Granted, we wouldn't have this freedom if it wasn't for a war of independence... and brave soldiers... and people with the political will to build a government of the people, by the people, for the people... and a God who sent his son to live and die with us so that all people could be free.
But this weekend is a celebration of the ideal of LIBERTY - and the groundbreaking step forward of making a public statement to the effect that we, as a people, claim God's authority to back up our understanding that we have a license - without caveats - to pursue such a principle. The genius of Jefferson was to put into a few simple words the fundamental value resident in every human being on the face of this good Earth.
- We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
This weekend is about how grateful we all are to live in a place where that ideal is not only yearned for, and respected, but actively celebrated...
... But LIBERTY is nothing unless we're prepared to live in the truth of it.
Too many of us give it away in exchange for temporary pleasures that will not cannot do not satisfy. We voluntarily place ourselves in bondage to those we owe money, to those who control the things we crave, and to those who hold sway over our hearts and minds.
We walk away from our freedom when we let other people do our thinking for us, or when we allow ourselves to be manipulated by louder voices. It's then we can unwittingly trade our genuine passion for prejudice, and our love of America for protectionism; we adopt a desperate defense of "I've got mine!", and too easily get nationalism confused with patriotism.
Jesus said that love is the only thing with the power to cast out fear. But too often we allow our fears to drive us to hate, or exclude, or judge harshly... when instead we should turn to God, who teaches us to love, and who helps us understand that this freedom we say we value so highly is compromised the moment we hold on too tightly, making fists instead of open hands...
So I plan to celebrate the fourth with the image of family around me, enjoying this great land, and doing everything I can to honor the ideal of Jefferson, who knew that he was tapping in to a truth that has the potential to set the entire world free... if only we remember to be generous and to never let go of love.