As our Independence Day is coming to an end, I started to really think about what that means. I spend a lot of time looking up words in my Thesaurus so I don’t get repetitive and decided to see what words I’d get for Independent. The first one that came to mind for me was ‘free’ and of course that was listed. What an absolute privilege it is to live in a free country. The men and woman who have fought so valiantly to make it a reality are  awe-inspiring. I hope I never take that for granted.

Not only are we blessed to be a free country, but we are free to worship anytime, anywhere and as much as we want. Amazing. And we can make that choice because of what God has given us in free-will. God has never wanted to make us do anything, to force us to worship Him. He wants us to choose. Having two children, especially with one nearing three, is a daily reminder that there is nothing gratifying about forcing our children to do something. Are there times we have to make them do things they don’t want to do? Absolutely. But I feel much more fulfilled as a parent when I see one of my kids do something loving because they made the conscious effort to do so, not because they feared a consequence.

I can only guess God feels the same way. Could He force us to do things? Sure. But is that what He really wants? I can’t imagine. As our Heavenly Father,  He wants us to love Him because we choose to, not because we fear the consequence. What an awesome freedom He has given us. I am reminded of that on this day of independence and ever so grateful for it.

There were a few other synonyms besides ‘free’ that I thought were interesting. Two of them were ‘alone’ and ‘self-reliant.’ As opposed to what it means for our country to be free, the independence we are given by God is completely opposite. When we “choose” Him of our own free will, we are anything but ‘alone.’ Though we may have spent our lives “self-reliant,”  the moment we give ourselves to Christ is the first time we have someone else to rely on.

I think back to how helpless I was last year when our family was so desperate to see my mom returned to health. There was a span of time I thought I would break into a thousand pieces. My heart felt like it was being ripped from my chest and I went to a spot outside the hospital to weep alone. I was lost, and I didn’t want to be around anyone else. I was going to handle the news of my mom’s tragic state independently. I had forgotten that I no longer needed to find the strength inside me to carry on. I let my human nature take over, thinking I could figure it out.

It took a good friend reminding me that God was in control to bring me out of the abyss. We have defining moments at times that can make a life-long difference in what direction we take. I am thankful in that critical spot, someone cared enough to remind me who I am. I am a child of God. Am I free to make my own choices? Yes. Do I choose to lay my burdens down at God’s feet when this world gets too heavy? Yes. Because for me, being independent means that I am never  ‘alone.’ It means that I choose to always have someone there for me; to walk ahead of me when I need guidance, to walk beside me through times of joy, and to carry me in times of trouble. For me, this is what it means to be free…

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