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Fireworks of Independence

Three dates to share with you as you think about Independence this weekend:

The first date is July 4, 1776.

The second date is more than a year earlier: April 19, 1775.

And the third date is September 3, 1783.

We all know the first date -- July 4th, 1776 -- as the date the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.

What we need to remember, though, is that the Declaration of Independence didn’t start the American Revolutionary War.

That’s why the second date (April 19, 1775) is important -- it’s the day, fifteen months earlier, that the war did start, as the first shots were fired in the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

By the time the Continental Congress declared our independence from Great Britain, we’d already been in armed conflict for over a year.

Which brings us to the third date -- September 3, 1783 -- a date even less familiar, but equally important to remember this Independence Day weekend.

It’s the date, eight years and five months after the bloodshed at Lexington and Concord, that the Treaty of Paris was signed, formally ending the war.

These other dates are important to remember because they remind us of a couple truths:

One, as important as the Declaration of Independence is, it was only a document, and that document didn’t bring independence; it took years of war to do that. As anyone who has raised a teenager, tried to break off a bad relationship, or free themselves from an addictive behavior can tell you, separation -- even healthy separation -- does not come easily. Independence is, by its very nature, a lengthy and explosive process. Maybe that’s why we have long firework displays every Independence Day!

Two, there’s really no such thing as independence: there is only independence FROM something or another as we become more dependent on some other thing or another. Perhaps “Independence Day” should be called “Independence From Great Britain Day,” because in order to achieve independence from Great Britain, early American colonists had to become more dependent on one another. Not to mention France.

The point is, no human being is truly independent. (And that’s not even a religious claim: a quick study of the process of photosynthesis proves we are dependent on a pigment called chlorophyll for every breath we take.) And no human organization is truly independent.

We are all dependent, to one degree or another, on God, nature, and one another.

So there you have it: this Independence Day, give thanks for the lengthy, explosive process our founding fathers went through so that we might recognize our dependence on them, and others, for the freedoms we enjoy.

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