On Independence….or Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

I’m someone who has a rather strong streak of independence by nature.  From the earliest times I resented someone telling me what to do.   But I always have liked that side of myself, and also always known that I was able to be free in many things because I had a great safety net…..family and friends who love me and would be there when needed.

For my life, freedom has been my greatest gift.  Give me rules, and I spend all my time trying to decide how to push them to the limit.  Funnily enough, I also hate cheaters who break rules outright…..they make me angry.  Especially when these rules are laws.  Yeah….those who know my respect of speed limits can probably point out my hypocrisy here.  But I do accept my punishment when caught…. and I have gotten better over the years!  Overall, though, I try to respect even the stupid laws.  And I try to get them changed through the system we have set up.  Which is often cumbersome, difficult and seemingly unmovable.  But yet also good in concept.

If I consider them “stupid rules” I often simply ignore them.  I only allow this in myself when the rule maker is misusing their position or is not really in authority over me.  Like at church when I am supposed to stand or put my hands in the air, even when I don’t want to at the moment  or feel that the Spirit  of God moving me to do so.  I call that Christian aerobics and I have not signed up for that class.  I often feel it is more about the person leading worship than the Spirit of God…so it frustrates me.  Yet in another way I do understand it.

I often have difficulty at church anyway. There often gets to be a lot of negative messaging that seems based on the sin areas other people need to work on…..and not so much about our own sinfulness.  I think we have that reversed.  But really….I’d so much rather talk about the ways you are falling short, so often I don’t argue with or question that approach.  Yep, the sinner in me.  So yeah…I understand that, too.

I love the verse that says that it is for freedom that Christ set us free.  We often forget that.  I think it is because God knows our authentic relationship with Him is found in our heart…..and not by the dumb things we say or do.  Often they are the result of external forces… our world…or the inner turmoil as we fight our natural inclination to live selfishly.  Churches should be places where we are reminded that we have a tendency to sin, that our hearts can be deceptive, and that a close relationship with God (the Father, Son and Spirit) is our goal.  When we know God more, and know His care for us, we naturally do the things that please Him.  I remember a quote I heard when I was a teenager “if we spend our time doing the ‘do’s we don’t have time for the ‘don’t’s.” That gave me a spiritual freedom that made my faith more freedom-based and has become a philosophy I return to when my life is out of balance.  So, what should I be doing?  Watching where God is going and following, growing the fruits of the spirit, aiding a Samaritan.  There are enough “do”s to last our whole lives.

Today is Independence Day…..so much more than the 4th of the month.  I love that our country was built by the desire for independence.  I think perhaps our founding fathers probably had some limits in mind based on their own desires and proclivities…..and I think my limits may be different than theirs.  But still….what beautiful words, what a beautiful concept.  I believe that freedom is a right with the only boundary being behaviors that interfere with the freedom of others.  And yes, I recognize that to be a difficult concept to administer. I see the choice that God gives us daily to follow Him or not, and I see that as the perfect freedom we should try to imitate.

For myself, I know freedom has saved my life time and time again.  Being given the choice, I am able to think before I choose, to not act like just a sheep or a rebel…learn and find truth and identify lies.  I don’t always make the right choice, but when I look to God I see the safety net he throws out to me.  He knows ultimately I will want to return to the one that I love.  I will return to equilibrium and truth where I will find peace and contentment. And God is neither supportive or surprised at my mistakes….but always forgiving when I recognize them and find myself ashamed at who I can be.

As much as I travel the world, and though I feel that there are other amazing countries out there whose people I love and respect, I still love returning home.  Though not perfect, my country is still the land of the free and the home of the brave.  Not that I really feel all are free and brave here.  But many are.  This country is another safety net for me.  Established for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, in spite of whether the path of our neighbor is the same as ours.  Easy to say, hard to administer.

Oh….and if you haven’t read the Declaration of Independence lately, maybe you should.   Because you have the freedom to do so.  It is not required.  And you can either agree or disagree, but really…..it is the heart of who we are.  If you don’t love our country, shouldn’t you find one you do respect and live there…or work to change this one in a peaceable and respectful way?  There’s some harsh criticism in the Constitution about government and authority.  Some that I think we may have out of balance today.  But we are united together and I like to hope we will ultimately put our own self interest ahead of that of others.  That is what will continue to make us a great nation.  We just may need to get back our equilibrium.

As our flag flies, I think of the blood that has been shed for our freedom, the conceptual purity of those beliefs that our country was built upon, and our stars….not just the states, but the people whose character stands out (or has stood out) and make this such a great nation.  It has endured much, it has taken much abuse, but it still stands.  It stands for freedom.  Even the freedom we find distasteful.  Most choose to exercise that freedom for amazing purposes – to give people the choice to find God, to exchange ideas that can make us think differently and make better choices, to learn, to grow, to laugh, to cry, to protest, to respect, to work, to endure and to build our faith.  That is an amazing thing.  But I will also support the right for those to be free whose ways I don’t understand.  Because even though it does not always lead to people making the right choices, ultimately I believe in independence. It means you may not agree with your neighbor…..but you will give your all for their right to be free.  You are my safety net and I am yours.  I wish you freedom for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.   I hope you wish me the same.

http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

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