This coming weekend we will celebrate our nation’s 245th birthday. It is a wonderful and patriotic time for our nation. There will be fireworks and barbecues and parades and celebrations all over this nation, even if in some areas they are limited and masked and socially distanced.
There will still be wonderful celebrations, commemorating our freedoms and the price that has been and is still being paid to preserve them.
This holiday, and the others like it, are necessary for us as a nation to continue to remember all that our freedom means. It would be so great a tragedy to forget the tremendous cost of true liberty.
In the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia, there’s a special display for a rickety, homemade aluminum kayak. This tiny, makeshift boat seems oddly out of place in the midst of displays for impressive Navy vessels, as well as magnificent yachts and other artifacts from significant battles on the sea.
But a small bronze plaque tells museum visitors the story behind this kayak’s heroic makers.
In 1966, an auto mechanic named Laureano Ricoy and his wife, Consuelo, decided that they could no longer live under the oppression of Cuba’s totalitarian regime. They had listened to and were inspired by one of Fidel Castro’s televised speeches in their country in which Castro repeated over and over again one phrase: “We must improve.”
Castro meant it nationally: “We must improve as a nation.” But Laureano and Consuelo took that phrase on as a personal challenge. They said, “We must take the initiative and improve our own situation.”
After spending months collecting scrap metal, they pieced together a boat just barely big enough for two small people. Then Laureano jury-rigged a small lawnmower engine on the back of the kayak.
After months of planning, on a moonless September night, sitting back to back and wearing only their swimming suits, they set out in the treacherous Straits of Florida. They had only enough water and food for a couple of days.
Finally, after they had floated in open water for over 70 hours, the U.S. Coast Guard found and rescued the couple just south of Alligator Reef Light in the Florida Keys.
Was it worth the risk to find freedom? Laureano thought so.
Years later, he said: “When one has grown up in liberty, [you] realize it is important to have [freedom]. We lived in the enormous prison which is Cuba, where one’s life is not worth one crumb. Where one goes out into the street and does not know whether or not one will return to one’s home because the political police can arrest you without any warning and put you in prison. Before this could happen to us, we thought that going into the ocean, and risking death or being eaten by sharks, is a million times better than to stay suffering under [political oppression].”
This weekend, we celebrate anew our freedoms that our forefathers struggled so hard to provide for us. They demonstrated remarkable courage and perseverance in the face of formidable danger.
Was it Ben Franklin who challenged his comrades to “hang together or we will hang separately.”? And Patrick Henry made his heroic challenge when he proclaimed, “Give me liberty… or give me death!”
We are honored to remember these heroes and more and the price that our freedoms have cost.
But even more, there is a deep longing in every human heart to find the spiritual freedom that only Christ can provide. And repeatedly, we have heard pleas to turn to Christ as the only way.
But all too often our response to such a spiritual plea is one of indifference or even opposition or, if we are totally honest with ourselves, a reluctance to give up something which we have treasured – a habit, a lifestyle, a secret sin, or the like.
Risking everything to possess our freedom in Christ is a million times better than remaining in spiritual bondage. The challenge then, my friends, is like Laureano and Consuelo, do not remain in bondage, but trust Christ as the only One who can deliver you from the bondage that you are captivated by.
Are you willing to set sail in your spiritual kayak, yearning to be free?
Galatians 5:1 – “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”
God bless …
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.