I’ve been reading Washington’s Lady by Nancy Moser. Written from the first-person point of view of Martha Washington, it’s engaging, entertaining and not a little educational. And it’s giving me a new perspective on our country’s fight for independence.
The Fourth of July has always been a day of celebration in my world. When I was a kid we’d have a community bean supper with watermelon and fireworks. But what of July 4, 1776? Were there hot dogs on the grill? Did everyone dress in red, white and blue? Did the kids draw pictures in the air with sparklers after dark?
Well of course not. In Chapter 12 of Washington’s Lady, Martha is in Philadelphia while George is in New York leading his troops. She’s missing him terribly and fretting over the challenges he faces.
“And more news . . . as of July 4, 1776, we were no longer the united colonies but the united states of America. Congress signed a document here in Philadelphia that boldly stated we wanted no part of allegiance to another nation.”
Martha talks of reading the Declaration of Independence in the papers. “I must admit it made my throat tighten and my heart beat a little faster. Yet in spite of its stirring words, it also elicited a somber reaction: there was no turning back.”
Martha wishes only to go home and have her beloved George there with her. And that’s it. In Nancy Moser’s fictional account of Martha Washington experiencing the first Independence Day, there is no celebration. No fireworks, no orchestra playing patriotic music. Mostly there is an awareness of the gravity of the situation and concerns that really, this fight has only just begun. The war did not end for another SEVEN years in 1783.
Today is a very special anniversary in the history of our nation–236 years ago we declared our independence from tyranny. But 236 years ago that declaration was just the beginning of a difficult battle to earn independence.
I think we’d all do well today to think of July 4th as a celebration of tenacity, endurance and a willingness to stand up for what we believe in. God is not finished with our nation. Today is the day we remember the goal we continue to strive toward, rather than the day we celebrate having reached that goal.
Happy Independence Day.