The first summer my husband and I were married we decided to road trip-it for a two week tour of the East Coast. So naturally, we bought our first car and racked up 3,000 miles within the first month.
Our trip was a conglomerate of sightseeing, trail-hiking, food-consuming, memory-making moments.
But there is one moment, one day in particular, I will never forget.
One moment in time that has been forever etched in my mind.
We celebrated the 4th of July with millions of other people. In Boston. Where the story of America began.
That morning, we got up early and made our way to the Charles River to get one of those oh-so-limited wristbands that would allow us to be part of the famous Boston Pops celebration that night. The sun was hot as we mingled with thousands of other sweaty patriots armed in their liberty foam hats, waving flags and guzzling slurpees.
Finally the moment came.
The sun dipped below the horizon and the crowds pressed in further as the band began to play. Media cameras posed, famous news anchors reporting a few yards away. The music was all-consuming as the age-old familiar songs rang out across America.
We had waited all day for this.
Then the national anthem came. I breathed it all in – the crowd, the singing, the glow of the river, the crystal-clear night sky. The battle for our freedom literally fought just over those banks. I tried envisioning the ships, the cannons, the men’s unwavering courage for the cause of liberty.
I sang the lyrics loud as the music crescendoed to a close. To my surprise, four fighter jets shot out from behind the stage, creating a sonic boom so loud I could only hear the sound of my own heart beating, echoed by the words, “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Ya’ll, I have never felt so patriotic in my entire life as I did in that moment.
I may have even saluted. I just couldn’t help myself.
My heart pulsed in sync with every resounding firework boom. Even in the rain, no one left. Mesmerized by the patriotic display, it was as if somehow we were all united regardless of our diverse backgrounds, preferences, or color.
That day, we were celebrating the one thing we all had in common: our freedom.
The Freedom Trail
If you’ve never been to Boston, the city has fashioned a “red brick road” that meanders from one revolutionary moment to the next. The trail brought history to life; learning the stories of real families, retracing their steps, knowing that men from my own family line fought for the Revolution.
Because freedom is worth the fight.
Our founding fathers faced imminent danger in order to secure “liberty and justice for all”. They believed in a place where everyone is equal, where dignity, life, and liberty is for everyone.
Walking the Freedom Trail was humbling. It made me acutely aware that the life I freely enjoy today came at the expense of others.
Because freedom is never free.
Freedom comes with a price.
Our founding fathers knew that freedom for everyone would cost them everything.
Because freedom is sacrificial.
Wars are waged and blood is spilt on the hill of liberty. In order for others to be free, someone has to pay the price. As the famous lyrics go, “O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life” (America, the Beautiful).
A few months ago, I met a woman who recounted a heritage of sacrifice. For over 100 years, her family has surrendered their men on behalf of this country.
ONE HUNDRED YEARS, you guys.
A century of loss and sacrifice.
From Civil War to present day, she recalled fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins, and sons lost on the battlefields of freedom.
I was shocked. Can you imagine the substantial loss of this one family? The grief they must have suffered for decades? Burying their loved ones in grave upon thankless grave all in the name of liberty?
Yet men and women like these continue to sacrifice their own lives so that others can remain free.
Because it is for freedom that we are made free.
Walking the Freedom Trail in Boston made me think of another trail in red. One that leads to another battlefield marked with blood, on a grander, more cosmic scale.
Freedom isn’t free. It comes with a cost. Even Jesus knew that.
Jesus selflessly sacrificed Himself on that cross so that we could be forever free. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Jesus died so that we could be free from sin. Free from death. Free from every addiction, impulse, or evil that entraps and enslaves us.
“For you were called to freedom, brothers; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for selfishness, but through love serve one another” (Gal 5:13).
Jesus set us free so that we would use our freedom to serve Him and others out of love and thankfulness.
Because with freedom comes responsibility.
Our forefathers gave up everything so that our country could shine as a beacon of hope in a dark world. Our men sacrificed their lives so that we would remain free and pass the torch of justice and liberty for all.
But how often do we use our freedom for selfish gain?
I stumbled upon these unsung lyrics for the very first time.
“America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
Till all success be nobleness, And every gain divine!
Till selfish gain no longer stain, The banner of the free!” (America, the Beautiful)
I was stunned. What wisdom from the Americans of Old, to define success as nobleness, as doing what is right. To yearn for a banner that is free from the stain of selfishness.
That is the kind of country my patriot heart would beat proud for.
May we no longer use our liberty to trample others in selfish gain.
Instead, may we use both our physical and spiritual freedom to do what is right. Not as a license to do whatever we please.
May we use our freedom for good, not evil. To help others. To serve. To love.
This Independence Day, may we remember the lives lost for our gain. May we remember our freedom with pride, gratefulness, and humility. Because we may not always have it. And may we use our freedom for the good of our fellow man.
Because freedom, after all, isn’t free.