The independence we are celebrating today is, of course, independence from the likes of me. Brits.
(Excuse me but first of all, what is a Brit doing posting on Independence Day? I know. It’s cheeky but there you have it. We are nothing if not cheeky.)
When I first came to the States, I visited the revolutionary battle sites in Virginia and saw their moving film about the heroes and the evil enemy invader. I was so moved. Until half way through I realized that I was the enemy.
I’d never thought of myself that way. (I’m not sure any Brit has to be honest. I mean we drink tea—how bad can we be?)
Er. How about… Tea Parties? Boston? (Oh. Yes. Well. Moving right along…)
What makes it slightly more complicated though is: I’m also an American citizen. So in effect I’m celebrating independence from myself.
But then again, isn’t that kind of the whole point, what our life is ultimately all about? Getting free of ourselves?
As a writer you have to get yourself out of the way to let the story through. It’s about not being proud, but humble–having a right-sized view of yourself.
Small children are famous for saying, “I do it MYSELF!” even as they flail about hopelessly—determined to have no one help them. Even if it takes 10 times as long. Even if they are going to hurt themselves. They just want to prove they don’t need anyone.
We laugh. How funny they are.
But are we any different?
When we shut others out? When we don’t ask for help? When we rush headlong into our busy days and lists thinking it’s all up to us? When we worry instead of praying?
And truthfully, what exactly did we “do all by ourselves”?
One time, in San Antonio, I saw this group of young guys standing in front of a black and white billboard. The billboard showed the city at the turn of the century. But when you look at the photo you kind of can’t tell where the past ends and the present begins. As if the veil had been peeled back for a moment and you saw all who came before.
I’m only here because of those who went before. My parents who sacrificed for me so I could get the schooling I had, the start in life. My family and friends who have loved me. My God who brought me here in the first place.
I’m only here because of grace. So in what sense is it even possible for me to “do it all by myself”?
“In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
So this Independence Day I’m going to be celebrating independence… from me—and dependence on others. And above all, dependence on my Father.
Who won’t ever fail me. Who cares for me. Who–even when I resist him, charging like a horse headlong away from him–won’t ever stop loving me, won’t ever let me go…
A version of this article appeared originally on 4 July 2012 on Story Warren.