Our country has come along way since, July 4th 1776, even though we seem to be in constant political debate. I wonder how “we the people” have changed. Were the people of 1776 consumed with money, sex and power, and fueled by their self-will? Our forefathers had intended freedom for our nation, yet I imagine they also desired freedom for all people from their internal struggles.
Two days prior to the official signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams sent this note to his wife Abigail:
“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. 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.”
Our family (much like other families across the nation) will spend our 4th of July with our closest friends, enjoying a parade, fireworks and barbecue. Adams may approve of our celebration, but would he wish to temper our self-serving, ultra commercialized and materialistic nature? This line in his letter particularly struck me: “It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.” Are we aware of God’s presence in all of the moments and do we turn toward God in strife?
This summer I read Michelle Van Loon’s book, Born to Wander. At age 49, (having traveled nearly a half-century), I’ve often had the sense of being on a journey without a compass. Van Loon suggests that when we yearn for the next new gadget, phase of life, or relationship, we often experience an interior struggle, a natural longing for security, control and safety. We feel unsettled or uprooted, as if we are pilgrims on a journey. Born to Wander explores the connection between our own journeys and how God’s people traveled the road of uncertainty for centuries.
I’ve had periods in my life when I’ve felt alone, distant from loved ones or my community, isolated from God. I imagine the people living in 1776 also faced many of the same internal struggles that people of today have: fear, resentment, self-pity, lust, envy and anger. Wading through our emotions can be so painful that we may choose to escape or avoid, and instead find ourselves searching aimlessly, looking for relief in the physical world instead of the spiritual. Van Loom reminds us of the biblical story of Ezra and our need for spiritual renewal: “Ezra believed the people needed a spiritual purgative so they could reboot their relationship to God, themselves, one another and the nations around them.”
One of my favorite points Van Loon makes is this:
“Can I trust Him even when I don’t understand why these things are happening? Will I follow Him even though it hurts? And do I have eyes to see His perfect care and abundant provision for me through it all?”
It’s sometimes hard to feel our loving God when we are in the midst of pain.
This summer I attended a lecture on the topic of grief (which is itself a journey). Most of us associate grief with losing a loved one; I had grieved the loss of my father, my older sister and my first child. In that lecture I learned that we experience grief for other kinds of losses as well, and if we work through the stages of grief, we can find a sense of freedom at the end.
Many of us have expectations throughout our life about our health, marriage, children, bank account and career. If we take an honest look at our expectations of those people, places and things, and the reality, we might find that there is a gap — our reality is not measuring up to what we had planned for life. When this happens, it’s okay to grieve that gap. If we’re unaware and don’t tend to our grief, we can be tangled in resentment, disappointment, sadness, anger or other emotions. I have found that when I accept the reality of the people, places and things in my life, I am freed and no longer chained to my unfulfilled expectations. And when I turn to God and ask for the courage and wisdom to accept my disappointments, and to change those things that I can, I am filled with His peace.
Our forefathers offer deep richness in their words, as I have found from John Adams. I believe the people of 1776 found personal freedom from their pain through devotion to God, and recognized His hand in their new country’s freedom. If you are looking for a summer read, pick up Van Loon’s book — I believe you will be inspired by her writings. Check the author’s site for a giveaway Book Giveaway She ends by reminding us that God knows the value in our journey, even when it is filled with pain. I love the scripture she quotes in her final chapter:
“We also glory in our sufferings (journey), because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character and character, hope” Romans 5:3-4
This is the writing and personal reflection and opinion of Peggy O’Flaherty, the Founder and President of Creating Space, LLC. More information can be found on her website…. Click here to find ways to create more freedom in your life.