We often forget that freedom comes at a cost and is never quite as free as the word or world might suggest. With bloodshed and heartache, and under the suffocation of oppression, freedom is paid for in full by those who fight for it. Our Fourth of July’s may be filled with joyous ruckus and the brightness of bursting fireworks (not to mention the picnics, and fried foods galore), but under the red plaid tablecloths, clouded, is the costliness of it all.
In my reading as I was working on this post, I came across a beautifully written letter that forefather John Adams had penned to his wife Abigail on the Independence of the colonies (cue inspirational music):
“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty; it ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
And “the great anniversary festival” it has indeed become. “Pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations”– it is almost as if America has obeyed Adams word for word in celebrating Independence Day. But why I particularly enjoy this segment of Adams’ letter is not his surprisingly accurate prediction on celebratory rituals. I savor these words because they put forth the very heart with which we should approach our independence.
I love the words “solemn acts”, and “solemnized”. (Excuse my fondness for words; English major speaking here.) Solemn, very much like another favorite word of mine ‘sobering’, seems to always give a nice grey feel to the air. Serious. Grave. Somber. Anti-smile. But, as a matter of fact, solemnity just claims formality and ceremony, even awe-inspiring grandness. It doesn’t always mean funeral-style. When Adams writes that “it ought to be solemnized” he is calling us to remember, honor, and celebrate with dignity–for how much sacrifice and death has paved the way to this joyous occasion.
Reflection on Adams’ letter gently reminds me of another that sacrificed for independence. Christ gave His life as a costly sacrifice for the liberty of my heart. My freedom (deliverance)–from nagging despair, from persistent sin, from overwhelming inability that pushes me to apathy–was bought at the price of Christ’s life. Costly and precious. Just as much as I live life in celebration and freedom, I must commemorate in solemnity, with dignity and remembrance, the irreplaceable value of this independence.
A blog I passed through in my investigation labeled the Fourth of July as “America’s biggest secular holiday”. But the common framework of the narrative of freedom, in America’s history as well as in our lives as believers, speaks a language far from “secular”. This powerful occasion of celebrating the American identity is also worth remembering as a part of the larger narrative: God’s faithful pursuit of His people.
Let us “uncloud” this special day. Here’s to a Fourth of July remembering the costly and solemn path that led to this nation as we know it. Here’s also to remembering the grace of our Father who paid the price, by His only son, granting us the greater freedom of our souls.