Today is the 4th of July, which, here in Georgia, means several things:
Tens of thousands of people who haven't exercised since January 6 all got together this morning in downtown Atlanta to run the world's most popular 10k, the Peachtree Road Race. My social media platforms explode every year on 7/4 with pics of friends at the starting and then the finish line. I like to look at the afore-mentioned pictures while I lounge in my bed, not running. The one I saw today of my eight-month pregnant friend at the finish line who'd barely broken out in a sweat was especially guilt-inducing for me (you know who you are, Lisa Adams).
Everyone and their brother piles into their family sedan and drives toward Lenox Mall or Stone Mountain Park in an attempt to secure front-row seats to the biggest fireworks shows in town. This brings the already awful Atlanta-area traffic to a complete standstill, resulting in things like babies being birthed on the sides of highways and other thrilling things of that nature.
More grills are fired up and working at one time in the southern US than they are any other day of the year (I might or might not have completely made this stat up, but I have a gut feeling I'm right, so go with it). Independence Day is a Big Green Egg owner's Christmas (except for the actual Christmas when they get the latest Big Green Egg accessories they've been drooling over). Men all over Georgia are geeking out and going all Alton Brown on us as they attempt marvelous meat concoctions never before tasted by mankind.
Someone, somewhere, at some parade or fireworks extravaganza, feels the need to take our nation's anthem and sing it loud and proud Whitney-Houston style, but Whitney they are not. We've all heard it being butchered by the most well-meaning and patriotic citizens you'll ever meet. Their patriotism, however, doesn't generally compensate for their lack of skill, know what I mean?
Basically, to sum up Independence Day here in the south, just see below:
Good ol' Independence Day.
We are a people and a country who pride ourselves on our independent spirit, aren't we? We celebrate our freedom to be whatever and whoever we want. Businesses and organizations use "independent" as a buzz word to signify a lack of bias or governemnt control. Schools use "independent" to describe a method of study in which students are responsible for their own learning. Women's rights groups use "independent" to signify that women don't need a man to function in life or to achieve happiness (cue Beyonce).
The dictionary defines INDEPENDENCE: freedom from the support, control, influence, aid, or the like, of others.
Our society champions the cause of independence. And while that's often well and good, the concept of independence is often a hard one for me to swallow, mainly because the message of the Gospel of Christ, which is a message I wholeheartedly believe, teaches quite the opposite.
Where the world teaches a person to stand on her own two feet to get by, the Word teaches that she must fall broken before the Lord, fully aware of her own neediness and inability to function apart from her Heavenly Father. (Psalm 51) (John 15:1-10)
Where the world teaches a person to carve her own path and create her own destiny, the Word teaches that one's life is part of a Master's plan. (Proverbs 16:1, 9)
Where the world teaches a person that she's smart and savvy and can trust her own intuition, the Word teaches that true wisdom can't be found apart from God and His Word, and that we can't trust our own sinfully-bent minds. (James 1:5-8) (1 Corinthians 3:18-20) (1 Corinthians 1:25) (1 Corinthians 2)
The entire message of Jesus Christ can be summed up in one word: DEPENDENCE.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding..." (Proverbs 3:5)
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death..." (Proverbs 14:12)
"I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth..." (Psalm 121:1-2)
"I say to the Lord, 'You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you...'" (Psalm 16:2)
God has always used His own unique operating system. He sent His only Son, the King of all mankind, to be born to human flesh without fanfare in a tiny, stinky room filled with field animals, when the world opts to welcome royalty with glitz and glamour and worldwide celebration. And He still operates this way, and the followers of Jesus Christ are still called to live a lifestyle that is contrary to everything this broken world beckons us toward.
To get ahead we must consider ourselves last.
To gain wealth we must give generously.
To lead others we must serve them.
To truly live we must die to ourselves.
To gain true freedom we must become completely dependent.
Each year, on July 4, we celebrate our country's freedom from the rule of Britain.
Each minute of each hour of each day of each year, those who follow Christ must celebrate Dependence Day.
Lord, that we would walk in dependence on You, and You alone, today and every day.
And when we are faced with images like the following and find that we do, in fact, share our American citizenship with this guy, remind us that this is not our home and that, in heaven, people won't do stupid, stupid stuff like this (or at least I assume they won't, but I guess we won't know for sure until we get there).