Another Fourth of July weekend has come to an end. Every year, we Americans celebrate the birth of our nation by gathering with friends and family, ooohing and aaahing over fireworks displays, and indulging in a char-grilled gluttony unmatched at any other time of year. I can’t help but wonder how many of us really pause to consider the significance of the holiday, or has it become just another watered down tradition, enthusiastically observed as a rite of summer and a little extra time off from work. In all fairness, it has been 240 years since our forefathers rebelled against the tyranny and oppression of the British Crown. It only stands to reason that we might not be able to fully appreciate this thing called freedom.
Thomas Jefferson defined freedom as “the right to choose; the right to create for oneself the alternatives of choice. Without the possibility of choice a man is not a man but a member, an instrument, a thing.” When you consider that perspective, we might not be as free as we’d like to think we are. Don’t worry! I’m not about to launch on some political, anti-establishment rant! I can think of plenty of instances in my own life when my ability to “create alternatives of choice” was greatly diminished, if not altogether nonexistent. Ironically, my reduced capacity of choice, these constraints on my personal freedom to pursue the life I wanted, were more often than not circumstances of my own creation.
Every toxic and unhealthy relationship that left me floundering like a drowning man with an anchor around my neck, was at some point “the one I just couldn’t live without.” I have exercised my right to “have fun” and almost perished in the prison of addiction. What I had once thought to be the pursuit of a “successful life” resulted in being enslaved by debt. Enjoying a life of excess here in the land of milk and honey, I ate my way into the bondage of obesity, weighed down with an extra 100 pounds of abundance. And finally, years of bad choices and failures left me paralyzed with fear and self- doubt. Apparently, I can oppress myself without any government assistance at all!
Thankfully, I have found some degree of freedom from these self imposed chains, but those victories have not been over-night-successes. My liberation, without exception, has been a slow process, and, in many ways, is still a work in progress. I think my point here is that freedom is always a process, and every step along the way is worthy of celebration. As a nation, we claim July 4, 1776 as our country’s birthday. But that was only the official beginning of the process. In reality, it wasn’t until the Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3, 1783 that the United States of America was recognized as a sovereign nation, independent and free from British rule.
So, what’s holding you back? Are there forces limiting your choices and options? Are you truly free to pursue the life you desire? Whether its a relationship, an addiction, or the limitations of your own thoughts, beliefs or current abilities, maybe today’s the day to make a declaration of your independence! It may only be a beginning, just a line drawn in the sand. It might not guarantee your success, but I promise, there can be no success without it!
I think that’s the significance of July 4th. They made a stand with a decided heart, and set forth on a coarse of action from which there would be no turning back. Their only options: Liberty or Death. What are you prepared to do for your freedom?