Monday, July 6, 2015

On Flags and Freedom

I don’t remember exactly when I became obsessed with July, the American flag and freedom, but it happened.
Growing up, my family celebrated every 4th of July at my grandparents’ small lake cabin. Somehow they managed to raise eight children (seven daughters) and lived to tell about it.  Those summer gatherings were centered around tables which were placed end to end and filled with platters of fried chicken, large Pyrex bowls of various salads, and pans of desserts. Lots of desserts. The adults relaxed in lawn chairs while cousins carried over-sized black inner tubes down the gravel lane to the lake. There we drifted aimlessly in murky colored water without sunscreen or worries. 
Things were pretty simple. 

Those kind of gatherings eventually gave way to new traditions. Many of the aunts and uncles are gone now and I honestly can’t recall the last time I actually cut up and fried a chicken. Maybe never. Though I do try my very best to make Aunt Pat’s potato salad, hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill are more of what you can find around here. In true American style we mow the yard, fly the flag and gather to watch fireworks light up the sky. 

Somewhere between those early carefree years and the here and now, I’ve learned about the price that was paid for the freedom I enjoy in this country and even more about what true freedom looks like.  

In life, tragic things happen, poor choices are made, lies are embraced, and all too often fear drives pain deep. It all steals the freedom that is really ours to have. 

Well, it definitely stole the freedom that was mine to have.

I’ve had to fight hard to write freedom into my life story.

Yes, there are verses that say freedom is a current reality if we know Jesus. 

However, reading about freedom and actually walking in it have been two very different things for me.
I’ve searched for freedom in many places and people.  In the number on the scale, the work I do, the home I live in, the children, bank balance, vacations, and in who I spend my time with. All of those things can be good, but none of those things were capable of delivering me from the chains in my life.

Understanding that my identity is in Christ – now that set me free.  

Grasping with my heart that God doesn't force me to love Him, because then it wouldn’t actually be love.  Love cannot exist outside freedom.  We can love God because we have a choice not to love Him. 

The good news? We have a choice. 

The bad news? We have a choice. 

We have the freedom to choose, indeed. But each choice carries an outcome.

God loves us so much that He does not force Himself on us. 

We have a choice.

We can choose to accept Him or choose to reject Him. Either way He loves us. 

However, one path is life and the other is destruction.  

God is in the business of setting people free. But freedom comes from knowing Him and making choices that bring life.

I love living in America where I enjoy so many temporal freedoms that are not available in other countries. Freedoms that were secured by brave men and women who gave all they had to give. Freedoms that carry responsibilities to maintain them. 

But this world is passing away and we are all just passing through. 

When Christ died on the cross, He died for every sin. Past. Present. Future.

He made the way for mankind to have eternal freedom. 

But friends, He will never force us to accept that gift or to embrace that freedom. 

Celebrating the 4th of July and the signing of the Declaration of Independence, I'm reminded that I need to declare my dependence on Him. Looking to Him, trusting Him, and finding security in Him. 

That is where true, lasting, unshakable, freedom lies. 

Galatians 5:13 really does make it kind of simple. We are called to be free. May we each wave our freedom like a flag and us it to serve one another in love. 


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© Rhonda Quaney