First, fireworks: if you think about it, fireworks displays are really nothing more than a long series of explosions.
But that seems to be a really good metaphor for "independence."
They need to be long, because the fight for "independence" is long.
We designate July 4th as Independence Day because it's the date in 1776 when the Continental Congress adopted the document called "Declaration of Independence," but two other more important dates came a year earlier -- April 19, 1775 -- when the Revolutionary War started at Lexington and Concord, and much later -- September 3, 1783 -- when the Treaty of Paris was signed, formally ending the Revolutionary War.That's over eight years: eight years of fighting; eight years of explosions, blood, and battle. A long time.
And fireworks, as a symbol of "independence," need to be explosive. We don't just wake up one day and say "I'm free!" -- not a single person gained "independence" the day the Declaration of Independence was signed just because a document was signed.
You want freedom from old habits or addictions, compulsions, attitudes? You want freedom from financial debt? You want freedom from "the spiritual forces of wickedness," "evil powers," or "sinful desires that draw you from the love of God"? You want freedom from prejudice or a -ism? You want freedom from any of these tyrants?
If so, expect a lengthy and explosive process. Whoever or whatever has a hold on us is not, generally speaking, going to let go easily or quickly. Tyrants put up a fight.
Which brings me to another point: as much as we idolize the idea of "independence," there's really no such thing.
That's right, 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 more dependent on 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 all human life is dependent on a pigment called chlorophyll for every breath we take.
No human organization - no business, no bank, no school or government or church or nation -- is truly independent.
We are all dependent upon, and inter-dependent with others, nature, and God.
So as you watch fireworks this Fourth of July, give thanks for the long, explosive process our founders went through, teaching us something about the process of achieving "independence."
Give thanks for our dependence on and inter-dependence with other people.
Give thanks for our dependence on and inter-dependence with nature, "this fragile earth, our island home," crops, and truckers and interstate highways.
And give thanks for our dependence on (and at times seeming inter-dependence with!) God, who could have populated this earth with angels to perfectly do God's will, but instead chose us human beings, fighting for independence from that which enslaves, so we are free to acknowledge our dependence and inter-dependence, each day.