Independence Day.

There is a truly morbid game that I had to play on America’s birthday this year; Gun shot or firework? Equal in sound quality and proximity to my home, each boom brought a new level of intrigue. July 3rd is when the Fair Grounds in Oklahoma City does their show, right down the road from my house. Luckily for me, when I sat upon my porch to view the sky portraits, I wasn’t so much fearing for my life. Rather, I was reflecting back on it.

Independence Day back home was directly tied to the beginning of the National Cherry Festival. A place that caused some of the greatest and worst memories of my 24 years of life. This year marked another in which I did not get to attend this once imperative festival of social status.

And then it hit me, I am really different. Where I once was years ago doesn’t compare to where I am now. The Lord has been doing such a work in my heart that, who I once was is dead. In Romans 8:1-11, Paul writes it like this:

        “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on tthe things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 

           You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

Choosing Jesus has made me look more like Him. Now the asterisk that needs to be placed by this verse is that we live in the “now but not yet.” It is finished but there is still work to be done on this earth and in this heart of mine. I have not reached perfection, instead I am seeking perfection.

As I processed all of these thoughts of how I have changed, where I have come from, and where I am going, all while sitting under the color lit sky, overwhelmed by the transformational truth of the love of the Father, a couple rode up on their moped. Totally engulfed in one another, they paused in the parking lot of May Avenue Liquor to witness the joyful sparkles filling the sky. The sky was dark, yet alive with color, and ambient night lights from street signs and signals. I watched, with a new adoration doing my best to not be the creepy guy sitting on his porch watching the fireworks alone.

Through this transformation, I have come to terms with who I am. And I love myself! It’s an honest revelation that came out of the love of God and watching that couple drive up. Knowing myself better makes being alone much more manageable. I love that by getting to know Jesus, I get to know myself. It’s a totally new thing to be alright with being alone. Growing up, this was a very foreign concept. A family of 6 meant there was literally always something to do or someone to spend time with. Being alone wasn’t a reality. July 3rd, it was a reality that initially challenged my self worth. Jesus is however ethereally good at grabbing my attention. 

Shortly thereafter the couple on the moped sped off and I retreated inside to start “The Perks of being a Wallflower,” a new found favorite for its truthful portrayal of honesty and adolescence. Believe it or not, Jesus met me again during the movie because He really wanted to show me something. (Spoiler alert? I guess.) There is a scene where the main character is interacting with his English teacher, discussing why people pick to be in romantic relationships with the seemingly wrong people. The teachers response? “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Now I don’t want to be deserving of a sacrificial death on the cross, but that is the exact love that God deems we deserve. Accepting it or not is up to us!

It is funny how drastically different this 4th was. I think the Lord solidified the love I have for the friends I have chosen. It was basically a stamp of approval! We ate food. I got my hair cut. We encouraged one another to be better and spoke identity into one another. The contrast was seemingly worlds apart. And yet the relevance was impactful. It is days like these that impact the polarities of my heart that help me to recognize the fullness of God. We search His expanses hoping to know ourselves and He digs right in and shows us exactly what we need.