(Alternate Blog Title: What Moving to Atlanta, Driving along the Trail of Tears, and visiting a Penitentiary taught me about Independence Day)
Personally, although I enjoy so many blessings by having been born in the USA, I don’t call today – July 4th in particular – Independence Day.
Moving to Atlanta, which once had been a city filled with slavery, and some of the history of the Civil Rights Movement I am learning here has helped establish this opinion of mine. I also now live so near the starting place of the Trail of Tears where so many Native Americans were driven from their Homeland and many lost their lives in the process.
In fact, this past weekend when I took some back roads to Tennessee to visit with my Dad, some historical markers let me know that I was driving part of the route of the actual trail of tears. I don’t know if it’s the strong longing for justice I have in me or the bit of Native American in my bloodline, but that knowing gave me chills.
Also, one of the places my Dad wanted to visit on his birthday weekend was the historic Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary which has now been closed and made into a museum. As we were sitting in the room watching the presentation and history of the place, we were told that the last use of the room we sat in before the prison closed was a chapel. And, in that place, over 1000 inmates – some of whom would die there and never know another day of physical freedom on earth, found true freedom in that place as they were baptized into faith in Christ. So those men their Independence Day behind imposing prison bars and razor wire.
So, to me – today is not Independence Day. Because there are so many countries and people who have no chance at the freedoms many of us in this country know, largely due to the fact that we often choose to pour the wealth our freedom creates back into ourselves.
So, although July 4th is the date The States became independent of Great Britain, I cannot – in good conscience – refer to it as Independence Day.
But there is good news! Because of the resilient human spirit breathed into us by our Maker and the freedom and purpose made available to us through the sacrifice of Jesus, every single day can be our Independence Day!
From the history that has formed our lives but doesn’t have to define our lives… from the hurts, habits, and hang-ups that bless us with brokenness that keeps us dependent on our Maker to soar even higher in life by His Spirit instead of our own futile efforts… from having to be in control… by surrendering to our Maker, we can call each and every day Independence Day.
So, tonight – rather than attend fireworks, I will attend my Celebrate Recovery meeting at my church as I do on most Thursday nights to enjoy the authentic fellowship and solid teaching and principles that enable me to find true freedom to rise above hurts, habits, and hangups. And, the first weekend in August I will join others at historic Ebenezer Baptist Church for the 400 Conference by the One Race Movement because almost exactly 400 years to the day the first slaves were brought to these shores. You see, I believe the best celebration of freedom isn’t commemorating a date when some politicians signed some papers. Rather, a true celebration of freedom looks to me like definitive steps taken to obtain and maintain true freedom for ALL.
Today, tomorrow, forever – let’s choose to live free so we can truly say “Happy Independence Day”, friends!