Ah, summertime…My favorite time of the year. Ever since I was a child, I have LOVED summer. It was nice to have three months off from school. My family and I would stay at a cabin for a week and go fishing. Trips to local carnivals and ValleyFair were typically on the agenda. And, my birthday is in July, so that may have something to do with my love of summer as a youth.
I love the sights, sounds, and smells of summer: the sight of green trees and flowers blooming while going on a run around the neighborhood…the sound of a ball hitting against a wooden baseball bat, whether from the local park or at a St. Paul Saints or Minnesota Twins game…the smell of freshly mowed grass…everything is alive!
But, how often do we miss out on the richness that we can find during the summer? CNN published an article on May 18th (http://money.cnn.com/2012/05/18/news/economy/unused_vacation_days/index.htm), calling the United States the “no vacation nation,” because they do not require employers to offer paid time off to its employees, which differs from nations such as the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. But, even for those who were offered vacation time, 57% of working Americans had left it unused. In fact, about 70% of their time off was left on the table! But why?
Many worried that they had too much work, and no one could back them up, so the work would pile up when they were gone. Financially, some were anxious and could not afford to travel. Then, there are the fears over the economy and taking time off during unstable times. Can we have freedom from these worries? anxieties? fears?
Yes, we can. July 4th is known as Independence Day, and we as a nation celebrate our independence. We remember those who have served or are serving this country…those who have died or are missing in action…people who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom.
As followers of Christ, we also know what true freedom is. Jesus freed us from sin and death with his suffering, death, and resurrection. The fifth chapter of Galatians discusses the nature of Christian freedom. Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free” (NRSV), free from the burden of trying to follow the Law perfectly in order to gain God’s favor. We can let go of the worries, anxieties, and fears that we face in this life, like, “Am I good enough?” You are always good enough in God’s eyes, and, most importantly, loved.
What can we do in response to this freedom? Galatians 5:13-14 says, “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “’You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (NRSV). God loves and cares for us, and we need to do the same for those we encounter in the “everyday” of our lives. Maybe it is mentoring a young person…buying someone’s groceries who cannot get around…even simply taking the time to lend a listening ear to someone who’s hurting.
You have the freedom from worries, fears, and anxieties. This summer, share that good news with others, in both word and action. Who knows, that light of Christ that shines in and through you may be the only firework some people may see in their lives.
Happy summer and blessings on your Fourth of July
— Caroline Harthun, Contextual Education Student