Every year I struggle with anxiety going to see the fireworks on the Fourth of July. Will we get stuck in the ditch? What if someone has to use the restroom, but can’t exit from our parking spot? What if we get thirsty or hungry? Why am I being so ridiculous?
The anxiety is probably rooted in childhood from celebratory events where I felt invisible, blamed for things having nothing to do with me, witnessed too much fighting, and where things just went plain wrong which I couldn’t fix. Irregardless, every year; I’m glad I’ve enjoyed the sparkly show, especially when it’s time for the grand finale.
This year was no different. In spite of being chronically ill, recovering from two surgeries, and waiting on another; it was firework time. I was moody all day; absolutely depleted and exhausted. It’s been a long two years, and frankly, I’m completely spent. But I have a family I love, and this year again on the 3rd of July, we headed out to view the show.
My very organized husband packed up everything we needed; while my daughter packed up snacks and stuffed animals and her iPad, as if we were going on vacation. In minutes, we were sitting on top of a freshly mowed grassy hill, along with our adult twin sons.
I laid my head back on my lime green camp chair to rest my painful neck. The air for once, was crisp and cool. We wore sweatshirts in Virginia in July! I didn’t feel well, but I felt my shoulders relax, even the one with the damaged joint and torn rotator cuff.
I’m with my family! This gives me JOY! I’d just been reading an article about how to deal with emotional exhaustion and burnout when you’ve been chronically ill. It said to try and live “in the moment.” It actually makes sense, considering Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34 NIV).
The wisdom of Jesus was working. I was enjoying the fireworks set off by nearby neighbors, watching the fireflies which had come out to dance, and sitting right in between 22-year old boys, who wanted to talk to me. We laughed at each other’s jokes and inventions, while trying to distract one another from wishing there was a nearby restroom! I sat there, realizing my family would have been disappointed if I’d stayed home. I’m important in this place. I matter. We all do. It feels so good to know you’re wanted and loved, especially when we struggle with feeling useless when we can’t do the things we used to do.
Another jolt of joy ran through my veins as I saw a ponytailed little girl sitting on top of a truck silhouetted against the sky. Her brother joined her, while pointing at some smaller firecrackers going off in a different direction. It reminded me of my younger self, and the excitement of watching fireworks on the roof of the car with my little sister. We’d rate them 1-10, and giggle, making sound effects for the ones that fizzled and didn’t quite make it.
In this moment, I feel higher on happiness. It makes sense, because I’m looking up at God’s great big indigo sky, at the fiery sunset, the crocodile shaped cloud pointed out by my daughter, stars competing for attention, and fireworks falling like gold waterfalls; while neon pinks, greens, and purples come dressed to announce themselves as important.
Yet, higher and brighter, and much more magnificent; lay the Heavens beyond. My God resides there, along with my Savior, Jesus Christ. All the fireworks in the whole world going off at once cannot compete with their glorious illuminating light! What a show it will be on the day Jesus returns! No one will miss the splendor of it! “ ‘Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Mt. 24:30-31).
Do you want to go to a placer higher than anywhere you’ve ever been, a place where God crushes our enemies of sickness and sadness? I do! We can overcome mourning by choosing to be one of the elect: Invite Jesus into your heart! Join me; I’ll see you in the sky!
“ ‘There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides across the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemies before you, saying, “Destroy them” ’ ”(Dt. 33: 26:27)!