I don’t know about you, but this year’s Independence Day celebrations were interesting, to say the least.
In our area of the country, we are fighting this coronavirus disease with a vengeance, although things around here have lightened up a bit. That means that everybody is wearing a mask!
We are attempting to resume as much of a normal routine and behavior as possible and as social distancing will permit. But the activities associated with such things as Independence Day are greatly limited.
There were only one or two fireworks displays this past weekend, where normally we would have had dozens in the area. And the communities that did have those displays scheduled them on the days before or after July 4th in order not to inspire whatever disruptions of those events any radical groups might have planned.
As usual, though, when it comes to thinking about freedom and independence, my thoughts generally turn toward the fact that we are never truly free until we give up our independence and fully depend upon God Himself.
When we accomplish that then, as the Bible says, “we are free indeed” (Check out Galatians 5:1,13).
The other thing about independence is that it tends to make us think and feel like we do not need anyone else in our lives. A spirit of independence tends to breed in us. If we are not careful, the sense that we do not need anybody else to help us live our lives as we want to live.
In his fictional short story, Top Man, mountaineer James Ramsey Ullman writes of a three-man mountain-climbing team in the Himalayas that pitches camp — really only a single tent — at 26,500 feet.
The next morning, they plan to scale the mountain’s summit, but a blizzard strikes. The sun doesn’t emerge for a day and a half, and soon the food supply gets low. The team leader, Martin Nace, finally announces they’ll have to give up their hope of reaching the summit.
His fellow team member, Osborn, challenges that decision: “Once we go down we’re licked. You know it.…I’m going — understand?”
For the first time since I had known him, I saw Nace’s eyes flash in anger. “I’m the senior member of this group,” he said. “I forbid you to go!”
With a tremendous effort [because of the lack of oxygen at that elevation], Osborn jerked himself to his feet. “You forbid me? This may be your sixth time on this mountain and all that, but you don’t own it! I know what you’re up to. You haven’t got it in you to make it to the top yourself, so you don’t want anyone else to get the glory. That’s it, isn’t it? Isn’t it?”
While the other two men are sleeping, Osborn leaves alone to climb the summit. When his partners discover he’s left, for his own safety they try to catch up with him. Many hours later they see Osborn; he’s stepping out on a slope of snow. His partners yell at him to stop: “Come off the snow!”
The partners can see, but Osborn can’t … the slope on which he stood appeared as a harmless covering of snow over the rocks. From where we were now, however, a little to one side, it could be seen that it was in reality no covering at all, but merely a cornice or unsupported platform clinging to the side of the mountain.
Below it was not rock, but 10,000 feet of blue air.
“Come back!” one man cries. “Come back!”
Osborn hesitated, then took a downward step. But he never took the next. For in that same instant the snow directly in front of him disappeared. It did not seem to fall or to break away. It was just soundlessly and magically no longer there.
In the spot where Osborn had been about to set his foot there was now revealed the abysmal drop of the north face.
Because the men yelled, Osborn’s life is spared — barely.
It does not matter what you are endeavoring to accomplish, whether climbing a mountain, attempting to live another day, or following Jesus Christ, certain undertakings should never be done alone, and especially without Christ as your guide!
“Therefore, encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing…” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.