In the United States we celebrate the anniversary of our freedom from British rule on July 4th. This celebration typically includes things like cookouts, barbecues, potato salad, pie and fireworks.
In the upper Midwest, participating in the requisite fireworks usually requires a bath in deet or running the risk of being carried away by hummingbird sized mosquitos. Having two kiddos with neurological issues, we try to avoid the deet bath. Instead, we have been taking the kids to our local dirt race track for their “Fireworks Spectacular” event. Where, either the noise, diesel fumes, or dirt, deters the pesky bugs and the kids also get to watch the races.
We load the van with blankets, clear protective glasses, sweatshirts, sunscreen, ear protection for five, and more money than I want to part with. Once everyone has used the bathroom one last time we make it out the driveway with only three trips back in for forgotten items. As usual, we arrive about an hour before the races start which is not early enough to avoid sitting just downwind of turn four, but just early enough to stuff some food into the kids before the race starts and it’s filled with dirt. This year, the toddler complies with the ear protection requirement, which means all five of us are able to watch the races and make it to the fireworks portion for the first time since Mini Hubby was born.
Well past Mini Hubby’s bedtime, he’s curled up on my lap, waiting for the promised fireworks. My chin resting on the top of his little blonde head I can smell the unique “Speedway Smell” of diesel fumes, exhaust, dirt and burnt rubber with the underlying earthy smell of toddler, i.e. sweat, sunscreen, more dirt, popcorn, pickles and something sticky which I’m bound to be covered in as well. Preteen has let his “I’m too old to be excited” mask slip and is trying in vain to find popcorn at the bottom of the bag that isn’t too gritty to eat. Baby Girl has moved past tired into overdrive, squirming on the unrelenting (even with blankets for padding) aluminum bench, and grinning from ear to ear and has only asked “How much longer” approximately eight times in the last fifteen minutes.
As the first firework is lit, shoots out of it’s tube and covers the sky in bright, loud, red, white and blue, three expectant faces follow it’s trajectory and smile. Eyes bright, mirrors of the cascading light. I smile. Watching joy spread across their faces and fill my heart. In between the repercussions and the patriotic music being piped tin through speakers, I hear it.
Soft and sweet.
Do you feel it? No fear.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
You came near when I called you, and you said, “Do not fear.”
There had been no fear all night. No stray fears about crashes and random parts flying into the crowd to sneak in and steal the joy of watching my family pick their “winning cars” for the next race.
No stray fears about someone stealing one of the kids to sneak in and steal the joy of watching Mini Hubby play in the dirt by the fence five feet away between races.
And now, no stray fears about tipped over fireworks or big explosions to sneak in and steal the joy of watching precious upturned, dirt filled, excited faces.
I’ve lived a life afraid. Afraid of bridges, wall mounted speakers in movie theaters, car accidents, kidnappings, wrong decisions, mistakes, and fireworks. Over the last few years I’m slowly learning to live a life of hope, in Jesus. To be brave and courageous. To walk this journey with perseverance and endurance. With Him. Until this blindingly beautiful gift of a moment I don’t think I’d really realized just how much work He’s done in my heart. I can get caught up in the mess of who I am, the frustration of fighting the desires of my flesh, and just how far from complete I am and forget that I am a work in progress. And that He’s been working all along.
I look up into crackling flashes across the sky, slightly blurred from grateful tears and celebrate true freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom in Christ.
2 Corinthians 3:16-18
16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.