July is my favorite month. I was born on the 15th and was married on the third. And I love the Fourth of July. It's festive, there are no presents to buy, and you basically spend the whole day in your bathing suit eating barbecued food; by the end of the day that suit is looking a little tighter, just in time for warm clothes and fireworks.
I also love the concept of celebrating our freedom as a country. This spring I celebrated Passover with a close friend's family, and throughout the Seder readings, they thanked God over and over again that they were able to live in America as free Jews. What a blessing religious freedom is, probably more appreciated by my Jewish friends than my Christian ones, because their persecution is much more on the forefront of our consciousness in the U.S. than that of the Christian church.
In the last couple of years, I've thought a lot about freedom. When I was a teenager, what I wanted out of life was to be happy. In my emotionally tumultuous twenties, I thought a lot about how much I wanted peace. Now in my thirties, in the still fairly new hormonal stability that comes when you've finished bearing children, what I want most is to be free.
I often joke about being a compulsive person: I compulsively finish projects, compulsively decorate for holidays, compulsively answer e-mails, etc. But in reality, the act of doing something because I am emotionally compelled to do so is something I really want to get away from. Especially as a wife and mother: I want to relate to my family in a way that is free from baggage. I don't want to feel or not feel, do or not do something because of the way I was raised, something I wrongly interpreted from my childhood, or some subconscious guilt that I'm barely aware of.
I especially want to be free from fear.
Postpartum with my second daughter, fear was an emotion I felt nearly all the time. I've worked through it, thank God -- and I mean that sincerely, not casually. One of the ways I did that was to learn how to really believe this Bible verse:
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." Galatians 5:1
Raised in the church, a good kid in Sunday school, I didn't get the power of this concept. I got that God wanted me to be good. Now I get that God wants to see me free. He gave me free will. He made me free to love him or not love him. He gave me his Spirit to help make wise choices. He gave me the freedom to choose what is good and right, even though as a human being I've inherited a broken spirit and a broken world; I don't have to "compulsively" choose to do anything. As all Christians believe, he gave me freedom, ultimately, even from death. But he also wants me to be free in life -- to claim freedom for its own sake!
For me, trusting that God is good makes me free. Trusting that he loves me no matter what makes me free. And believing that in Christ I am a new creation makes me free (2 Corinthians 5:16).
I read somewhere once that if life were a multiple choice test, what we saw our parents do make up choices A and B. My parents being awesome people in their own right not withstanding, I want to see past my first two choices. I want all the options. And I pray my girls learn to see all theirs as well.
So leading up to the Fourth of July, I thank God for my freedom. And I thank God for himself, the giver of the greatest freedom there is.