In the summer of 1969, I went to Canada in a canoe. After an eighteen hour bus ride to Ely, Minnesota forty men and boys from Ward Parkway Presbyterian Church set out on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for a weeklong camping expedition. As we gathered supplies and loaded 20 canoes with camping gear, I was awed by the sheer size of the lake we were on. I sat in the front of the canoe watching muskie jump out of the water and eagles soar and swoop as they looked for prey in this pristine wilderness. The rules of the BWCA are pretty simple: no motors, whatever you take in you must take out and leave every campsite in the condition you found it.
The leader of our group of explorers was Pastor Bill Schotanus. Pastor Bill was a born leader and we were eager to follow him wherever he wanted to go. As the last of our group finished packing their canoe, Pastor Bill said a prayer and gave us this bit of advice, “Boys, we’re not going anywhere unless we all start paddling together.” For the next five days we paddled across one lake and portaged to another, we paddled to places where only adventurers in canoes had ever been and after a week on the water we knew all there was to know about our common purpose. We shared an experience of independence that profoundly affected the rest of my life and today is the perfect day to reflect on the true meaning of Independence Day.
We celebrate the 4th of July each year with fireworks and picnics but that’s not how it all got started in 1776. The Declaration of Independence was as much a declaration of war as it was a statement of independence from England. If you have never read it, you must. The list of grievances presented as justification for this declaration is long and painfully specific as to the atrocities of the crown. It concludes with the greatest pronouncement of all time, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance of DIVINE PROVIDENCE, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honour.” They declared their independence by mutually pledging their lives to each other. This is our legacy as Americans; we need each other to make this work, we cannot go forward into the future unless all of us work together to preserve and protect everything the Founding Fathers gave us by their words and deeds two centuries ago. We must mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes and our honor for today and every day that comes for the sole purpose of sharing democracy with the rest of the world. That is the true meaning of Independence Day.
Pastor Bill could have just as easily made his speech to the Founding Fathers, “Boys, we’re not going anywhere unless we all start paddling together.” Happy Birthday America, God has blessed us all.
©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.