In the coming days our streets will be adorned with the colors of red, white and blue. Parades of local marching bands, tractors pulling floats and kids on bikes with streamers will slowly pass us by as we wave and shout, "Happy 4th!" We are proud of the hard fought independence we earned as we fought British rule centuries ago. As a new country, we believed we should be autonomous and have the right to rule ourselves and not answer to a king on a throne an ocean away.
There is a different war for independence that rages within all of us. It's not a geopolitical type of war but one where we as individuals seek our own independence. Independence from our Creator and our Father. It began way back when Eve was offered the forbidden fruit from the serpent who asked her to question God's instruction. "Did he really say you shouldn't eat it?" For all intents and purposes he wanted her to be independent of God's instructions for her life...."think for yourself, girl!"..."you don't need Him"..."you're missing out on so much more!" And we all know the consequence of that first attempt at independence - separation from God for all of us.
God does not seek to be a harsh dictator who over unfairly punishes, over taxes and over controls. Because he created everything and us, he knows what is best for us and how to have an abundant life, even in a broken world. He created us to be in a loving relationship with Him but of our own free will. He wants authenticity, intimacy and the word that most of us despise, "dependence". With total dependence on the Creator we actually find ourselves experiencing the ultimate freedom.
Being dependent on anyone else other than ourselves has such a negative connotation. We are told to pull ourselves up by our own boot straps. We are told that women should never depend on a man. Parents are taught to teach their children to be independent from a very young age. Men are told to make their own way in the world by their own hard work. We are all told to create our own happiness and our own reality. Follow our dreams. The problem with all of this thinking is that it wreaks of "me, my, mine" or "I, our and own" and that's a problem.
There is a name for that serpent in the garden. His name is Lucifer. His origins are deeply rooted in the words, "I", "me" and "mine". Long before the scene in the garden, Lucifer was the most beautiful of God's angels. His entire being embodied worship of God. He made beautiful music and led many angels in peaceful, loving worship of the Almighty God. But one day, his own free will took over and he declared his independence. The most beautiful guardian angel created declared,
I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
in the far reaches of the north;[c]
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.
We scoff at this and certainly don't identify with this account of this fallen angel but he's not so different from us. Often times, we set ourselves on the throne of our lives, believing we are above others and if not that, above certain situations in the world. We make ourselves kings and queens of a universe that revolves around our 1/3 of an acre of the planet, forgetting that God's call on our lives is to be in relationship with Him first and then to draw others to Him second.
Nothing good comes from independence from God. Because of Eve and Adam's poor choice, sin entered the world - work became hard and the weeds sprang forth. Every generation that followed contended with lies, murder, pride and prejudice. Man began to live desperately for himself and not for his brother. Every heinous act you see on your evening news is a result of the original war for independence.
There are more subtle afflictions when we rely solely on ourselves. Anxiety and worry plague us when we live separate from the Word. He tells us over and over to "cast all of our cares upon Him" (1 Peter 5:7) and that "His thoughts are not like our thoughts and His ways are not like our ways." (Isaiah 55:8) God doesn't expect us to be mindless robots, but the final word on any matter belongs to Him and Him alone. Raising the white flag of surrender often brings the most peace.
Much of the Bible describes individuals or people groups who fought for their own independence and lost. Jonah refused God's call to go and preach to Nineveh and as a result he ended up in the belly of a fish. The Israelites wandered for 40 years in the wilderness and grumbled and complained when completely God completely provided for them. Even Saul, who became Paul, began his life depending on religious constructs but not God, Himself - this resulted in fanatical persecution of Christ followers. Paul did not change until he was struck down blind by Jesus, himself. God's consequences and corrections are not put into place for mere sport or anger - they are to illustrate the utter mess we make of our lives when we live apart from Him and His word.
Our constant struggle to be independent is the very thing that makes us miserable. Even in our daily lives we fight the battle. Kids push and pull away from the parents who were given to them for protection and care. Spouses seek to be independent from one another which results in cold or broken marriages. Sadly, we would all rather go our own way than depend on one another and ultimately God. Our earthly relationships are meant to reflect our relationship with Jesus. Jesus went to the cross for us, placing our need for salvation above His own need to live. We depend on this for eternal life. Depending on that sacrifice leads to a life of fullness - yes, there are struggles, hardships and even disasters but the ultimate reward is that of eternal life with a king on a throne in heaven.