Blowing up the Fourth of July
by John UpChurch
I nearly blew up Fourth of July. Well, not the holiday, just the block party we had when I was a kid. For a couple years when I was young, the residents of our neighborhood would congregate at an open lot on the corner. Many of the families would bring bags and boxes of giant bottle rockets, roman candles, sparklers, fountains, and other color-shooting fare. They’d dump them on a ratty blanket and sit in the grass. Most of them took turns launching the flaming orbs into the air, littering the ground with the paper and cardboard of spent fireworks, and filling the night with acrid smoke.
It was glorious, and I wanted to make a huge splash (cue the dramatic music).
Before descending upon the second—and last—of our block parties, I scanned the aisles of the fireworks tent not far from our house. Just shooting flaming balls or seeing a pretty sparkly pop in the sky wasn’t enough. I wanted to go big. There’d be nothing mundane for my moment of greatness this year.
And that’s when I found the perfect Chinese-made, powder-stuffed wonder. I have no idea what it was called, but it was a green plastic tube longer than my hand with fins sticking out from either end. The packaging promised showers of sparks as it rose into the sky, a loud report (code for explosion), and an unforgettable display of color. Some might say spending three bucks on one moment of awesome is a bit excessive. I just saw it as a small price to pay for a green wonder.
When we arrived at the party, I plopped that bad boy on the blanket and waited. The dozen or so puny pops and whistles made me all the more eager to get to my pièce de résistance. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the lightshow, but they didn’t know what real excitement awaited them.
Finally, my time came, my moment of triumph. Although I was too young to do the lighting (so said my parents), I marched with my firework contraption to the middle of the road and placed it exactly in the center. This green wonder needed the perfect launching pad, after all.
I hurried away when the host of the party lit the fuse. To this day, I have no idea what happened exactly. I followed the instructions on the wrapper, and yet the green wonder’s shower of sparks weren’t enough to get it off the ground. Instead, it limped across the road with a pathetic whimper and shot toward the blanket full of fireworks.
Neighbors scattered. People screamed. God had mercy. At least, that’s the best way I can explain how a shower of sparks and flame didn’t set off any of the other fireworks or burn anyone.
Intersecting Faith & Life: Too often, I’m just like I was back then on that Fourth of July: I want my service, my gift, my moment to be more awesome than anyone else’s. I compare what I’m doing with what you’re doing or he’s doing or she’s doing to see how I stack up. That’s exactly the point where things go boom.
But freedom in Christ begins with a humbling. We’re meant to keep our eyes on Him, so much so that we aren’t able to compare ourselves with others. One person may preach the gospel to an entire nation, and another may work with gospel-saturated hands in a tiny community. One may write books that sell millions of copies, and another may have a blog that ten people read.
We don’t need green wonders to make a big splash. We need surrender to the One who made us. That’s what sets us free.