I love the Fourth of July for many reasons. It's a celebration of freedom and a chance to be grateful. It's filled with traditions I love, family and precious friends. There is usually warm weather and ice cream, water and fireworks. Often s'mores for good measure. This year was a wonderful combination of all of that.
But the most significant thing about the Fourth of July for me is not Independence Day. Rather, I suppose, it's Dependence Day. Forty years ago (!!) on July 4, 1976 (the bicentennial of the USA), a camp pastor issued a simple challenge to me and all of the other teenagers present that day. He said that if we believe that Jesus died for us, it only naturally follows that we would make a decision to live for Him.
The scripture he shared has stuck with me to this day:
"For Christ's love compels us,
because we are convinced that one died for all,
and therefore all died.
And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves,
but for him who died for them and was raised again."
2 Corinthians 5:14
Of course I owe Jesus my life! I told him so that day, and made a commitment to follow him that has remained my heart's desire and life's goal. My declaration of dependence, if you will.
Lee and I saw the stairs in the photograph above the other week when we were out exploring. They immediately appealed to me, and I appreciated the person who lovingly took the time to make them beautiful. I am an encourager and affirmer at heart, believing that God made all of us to bear his image. It's my natural tendency to see God's fingerprints on a person.
Here's the truthful problem with affirmations:
I am not enough.
I have written about this many times over the years, but because the "You are Enough" message is so pervasive, I think it bears repeating. You and I were never created to be enough. We were created to live in relationship with the God who IS enough, and who offers to completely and effectively fill whatever is lacking in us. In the hands of our Creator, we have an amazing, mysterious, life-producing partnership, the impact of which is more than enough. (My illustration here!)
The "You are Enough" message seems like it should calm a person, make them relax and feel accepted and valued as they are. But the thing is, all of us know it's not true. So if you tell me I am enough, I think oh, if only you knew! Because each of us has marred the image of God in us by trying to do things on our own and falling short. It's called sin. So now I need to keep up the facade you must be seeing so I won't disappoint you. Maybe what we're really trying to say is something that's entirely true: "You don't have to be enough." "You are not enough, and that's completely OK." But then let's say it that way, so we can be free from the mask of strength and self-sufficiency that we are so easily tempted to wear, and instead of independence, embrace our dependence.
You are not enough. But you also are not alone. The God who made you is more than enough. He who is worthy gave his life to make you worthy. By depending on him you can truly be free.
A few words from Jesus:
"I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (...) As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15: 5, 9-13
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9
"If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:31-32
You and I are not enough. Today may we walk in joyful dependence on Jesus, the Truth who sets us free.