The exact moment of one’s perceived independence is subjective, isn’t it? The date or event fluctuates with age.
As a young teenager I sang, “Born Free” with the sorrow of a caged animal. My spoiled, middle-class American teenage girl angst shrouded the recognition of the myriad freedoms I took for granted. “When I’m 18, I’ll finally be free of these adults and their strict rules,” I moaned with self-imposed grief.
When I was 18 and moved out of my parents’ home, I faced the reality of the freedom I’d previously sought. The landlord wanted to be paid every month! My roommates and party guests ate all my food, drank all my beer, and ruined my towels. I sang Louis Armstrong’s “Nobody Knows” with the hopeless oppression reflected in inmates on death row.
As a pregnant, teenage bride waking up beside my abusive groom, I cradled my belly and sang, “You Are My Sunshine,” conscious of the reality of true repression and victimization. That song became my quiet anthem through the births of my two beautiful children. “We’ll be free from this man and his brutal ways someday,” I promised.
Four years later, when clarity of mind returned to my battered head, I grabbed my babies and escaped. “Baby, You Were Born to Run” played in my mind, like the theme to the film of my life. The movie trailer ran in a continuous loop in my brain while I tried to gather the scattered pieces of my disoriented world.
Independence is slippery. Just when you think you’ve got it all together, begin to relax, and take freedom for granted, you risk losing it.
Memories of the few happy times that had kept me sane, mixed with loneliness and the promises of “I’ve changed” and “It’ll be better this time,” formed a dangerous cocktail that subtly seduced me into complacency, promising to rob me of the vague independence I’d thought I’d finally found.
Steve Perry and Journey came to the rescue! “Don’t Stop Believin’” rocked my very soul. I snapped back to reality and finalized the divorce, at last proclaiming my very own Independence Day
Amid my financial hardships, poor decisions, burgeoning self-awareness, and growing positive parenting skills, I came to believe that true independence was just an illusion. I would always need help in some way. I’d never be the self-sufficient woman I had once hoped to be.
As the emotional, physical, and social clean-up began, “Amazing Grace” crept into my thoughts. The wretchedness of what I’d allowed my life to become came into clear view as when watching a Polaroid picture develop. I recognized the impoverished state of my spiritual life.
I had learned about Jesus as a child in Sunday School but now, as a struggling single mother of two pre-schoolers, I met Him personally. When I openly confessed that I needed Jesus to take over the mess I’d made of my family, I found the love I’d longed for all my days. I found peace in knowing I didn’t have to do it all, all by myself. I found freedom in wanting to please only God and not people.
Songs of freedom resonated throughout my being. “Trust and Obey” was a necessary reminder when I felt discouraged. “Love Lifted Me” kept the realization of my rebirth fresh in my mind. The power of God was brought home in the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The beauty of the freedom that comes with living in America made my heart burst as I sang, “America” and “The Star Spangled Banner.”
I learned that needing others doesn’t make me weak; it makes me an integral part of a whole. When I realized that joy comes with being totally dependent on God, I established my true Independence Day!
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About Kelly Stigliano
Kelly J. Stigliano has been writing and speaking for over 3 decades. She and Jerry have celebrated more than 30 wedding anniversaries together—all proof of God’s redemptive power! Kelly made bad choices for years and shares the lessons she’s learned along the way, hoping to keep others from making the same mistakes. Because no one benefits when we wear masks, she tries to stay transparent. “Everyone has skeletons in their closets, but my closets don’t have doors on them!”
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