I had a great time celebrating Independence Day with my family yesterday. We laughed and played games and ate and walked through a storm of lightening bugs to our fireworks-watching spot. I hope you all had a wonderful day too.

But I know that sometimes a holiday is not laughter and happy family time. The memory of past holidays can feel like poison in the veins.

One Fourth of July I stood on a hotel balcony, alone in the company of strangers, to watch the fireworks. My son was in a nearby hospital, the rest of my family home, two and a half hours away. It was horribly different than the way we had always celebrated in past years. I could feel the stinging poison circulating. Before the grand finale, I slipped back to my room to release the sorrow that boomed through my body louder than the colorful rockets.

I learned something about freedom that night. As much as I cherish the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, there is a freedom I value more.

No government could extend this freedom to its citizens. No one could buy or earn this freedom. This freedom can only be extended by grace: freedom freely given. It is the freedom to drag my poisoned soul to the place of healing and rest.

“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭

When I left the celebration of our American freedom that painful night, it was to exercise the most precious freedom I possess. In the privacy of my lonely hotel room, I approached the throne of grace. The place had been offered to me without condition, with abundant love. I found help in time of need.

Friends, I pray that you also receive this freedom.

And Happy Birthday, America.