It was a hot, muggy day in Ethiopia when I met my middle son. We had waited years for his adoption to be realized, months for him to be released from his paperwork prison that is the bureaucratic reality of immigration and adoption. We were told he may never come home, a reality we refused to believe. There were many days during this process where we felt utterly helpless, trapped, unable to impact the outcome of something so dire and dear to us. We had no power and were literally at the mercy of others to decide our fate. On the day of his release into our family, I felt a joy and relief that can only be described as an unburdening; true freedom. Since that day I have often reflected on what freedom is and is not, how it is gained and lost, and the high cost that freedom has for many around the world past and present. This year, use your Independence Day Celebration as a reflection of freedom, a day to stop, reflect, and take stock of the blessing of freedom and to celebrate its amazing impact on our lives in the United States of America.
What is Freedom?
Freedom is defined as the “power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint” and the “absence of subjection to foreign domination.” It is essentially the opposite of slavery. Free nations and peoples typically have the ability to move freely, speak as they wish, act, believe, and worship how they choose. Any removal of one of these “inalienable rights” is a type of slavery that we in America have not experienced since the Revolutionary War.
Free nations and peoples seek to respect the rights of the individual over the state and government. This freedom often comes at a high price that involves war, military service, and civic participation and only works if the people are allowed to impact their government through voting, involvement and protest, when necessary. When I hear of a protest happening I often tell my children (regardless of whether I agree with the protest) that this freedom is immensely important and reminds me of how blessed we are to be able to voice our dissent!
Consider celebrating freedom through reflecting on these aspects of freedom in all its forms, and its absence.
- Search for the word “freedom” in the Old and New Testament. Develop a definition of freedom before and after Christ. Create a word cloud that reflects the benefits of freedom in Christ as a family.
- Study the history of the American Revolution through the eyes of the slaves who would not be granted freedom. This article Fighting Maybe for Freedom…but Probably Not can give you a great start.
- Do a family genealogy search for any members of your family who fought for freedom in national or foreign wars. Already know of a few? Take their oral history while you still can! Be sure to ask them what freedom means to them.
- Keep a freedom journal or list for 1 month. Write down every time you are thankful for a freedom you experience. From brushing your teeth (you have the freedom to have water when you want it!) to worshiping at your church, we all have freedoms we take for granted. Write them down and then create a poster as a family for what freedoms bless you each day.
- Plant a tree, purchase a flag and raise it (properly) or donate time to an organization fighting for freedom. Each year our family reads about and supports the fight to end slavery by International Justice Mission, realizing that our son could have very likely ended up in slavery had he stayed an orphan. This enables us to reflect and act out of our thankfulness, the best celebration of freedom I can imagine!
Go beyond the parades, floats and fireworks this year and use this Independence Day Celebration as a reflection of freedom within your family. I believe you’ll be as blessed as we have been to count the blessings of freedom one by one through family discussions, Bible studies, and thoughtful reflection. In this we truly celebrate our national and personal independence in a way that creates thankfulness and awareness in our hearts.