Each spring, we have long-term guests at the King’s house. We have never invited them, and they never ask if they can stay. They just show up and make themselves at home. We have tried a number of things to discourage them from coming, but they never seem to get the hint. When they come, they are usually with us for well over a month. This year’s visitors have left. As usual, they have left a mess behind for us to clean up. I’m sure another family will show up next year, and none of them are our family. I usually don’t even know their names. If they aren’t red, blue, or have an orange chest, I only know them as part of the bird family...and I don’t mean Larry Bird.

Human families remind me of those birds. The little ones can’t wait to be grown enough to fly away and gain their independence. The first taste of that independence comes with a driver’s license. Usually, a few years later, they leave the nest and fly on their own. Occasionally, one will stay in the nest until they are old enough to draw their social security, but most can’t wait to move out. Some parents are deeply depressed when they become empty nesters, while others embrace the season and celebrate. I guess, in one sense, both the children and the parents have then gained their independence. Both eventually enjoy their new-found freedom.

Sadly, there comes a time in our latter years when adults sometimes lose their independence again. Many of us have experienced that heart-breaking time when our parents are no longer able to live by themselves, in their own home. Some of that independence that came with acquiring a driver’s license is also lost when the elderly are no longer able to drive. The independence gained becomes an independence lost. Independence is never an eternal promise, at least not in this world.

244 years ago, our nation declared its independence. The acquisition of that independence came at a great price. Our young colonies were like those baby birds in the nest, and England was their mother. Leaving the nest and flying on their own must have been a frightening thing to do, but it was a risk they were willing to take in order to gain their freedom. It proved costly for so many of them. Some 6,800 American soldiers were killed during the Revolutionary War. More than 6,000 others were wounded. Around 20,000 were taken as prisoners. Today, we enjoy our freedom, our independence, because of that great price our forefathers paid back then. We simply get to enjoy the benefits of their sacrifice, but can easily forget what a treasure we have inherited. Now it is up to us to protect what we have been given.

Jesus once said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought into desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” (Matthew 12:25) It certainly is not the first time, but as a nation we are fractiously divided these days. In fact, not everyone who lived here 244 years ago was in favor of gaining their independence. Having said that, I do fear our current division is a treat to our future. We have never all agreed on everything, and it is certain that we never will in this world; however, we must work together to live in harmony. Harmony is not everyone singing the same part, but everyone singing different parts that blend together. We are not all the same, but we do all have the same value. In order to protect our independence, we must learn to all live together in harmony. I’m still praying. Happy Independence Day!

—Bill King is a native of Rainsville, where he and his wife graduated from Plainview High School. King is a director of missions in Opelika, a writer, musician and author. His column appears in the Times-Journal weekend edition. Visit brobillybob.com for more information.

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