The Waldo Canyon Fire is nearly contained now, and Colorado Springs is focused now on recovery. Personally, we’re returning to some semblance of normalcy around our place, too. We’re back in our home, re-hanging pictures and washing clothes and vacuuming stray bits of ash that snuck through the windows. We even had a nice Fourth of July holiday this Wednesday.
‘Course, it was a little different than the typical Fourth of July. There were no fireworks, for one thing: The state of Colorado banned them this year—even the big municipal displays. Any soul who might’ve bought a handful of illicit firecrackers or sparklers wisely decided to keep them in storage. If they hadn’t, I’m pretty sure they’d find angry neighbors at their door with pitchforks before first sparkler even stopped sparkling.
So instead of saying “oooh” and “ahhh” in Memorial Park like we typically do, We spent the day with some of my favorite people in the world: A walk in Garden of the Gods with an old high school pal and his family. Dinner with very good friends. It was awesome.
It was more than awesome.
Just a week earlier, these folks were calling me to see if I needed a place to stay or an ear to bend. They were offering to feed us or drive us somewhere. When me and my family were preoccupied with ashes and evacuations, they—and many, many others—were there, walking through the fire with us. Pretty humbling.
I like to think of myself as a pretty independent guy. I don’t like to ask for help. I don’t like to think I need help, frankly. A few years ago, I was in need of a 15-foot ladder to clean out our gutters. My wife suggested I ask our next-door neighbor if we could borrow his, but I couldn’t do it. Don’t want to bother him, I told Wendy. We wound up buying a massive new ladder from the local home improvement place—one we haven’t used since—because I didn’t want to ask for help.
Weird, isn’t it? I used to think that I just didn’t want to put other folks out. They have more important things to think about than our petty little needs, I told myself. But I wonder now whether it had more to do with just plain ol’ pride.
But hey, pride is almost a national birthright for us here in America—both the good sort of pride and, maybe, the bad. After all, we Americans like to think of ourselves as self-reliant: It’s our lingering frontier spirit, perhaps, or our desire to set ourselves apart, and sometimes above, the rest of the world. I mean, that’s part of what Independence Day is all about, isn’t it? The idea that, more than 200 years ago, we pushed away from England and the rest of Europe so we could call our own shots. We’re proud of our independence. And we should be.
But there’s a certain beauty in dependence, too.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity,” Proverbs 17:17 says. When you read the Bible, the New Testament particularly, you read so much about how important it was for believers to be in community—to share their joys and trials and pain with other folks. All of Paul’s letters were written to his friends and communities of friends—folks feeling the stresses and terrors of living out a new, weird faith, but walking through it all together. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed,” he writes to the Corinthians (2 Cor 4:8-9) “perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
The most important word in that whole passage, I think, is “we.” It is the “we” that helps us survive our toughest times. It’s the “we” that gets us through the fire. And that dependence on others—that “we”—includes being dependent on God, too.
Last night at church, we heard from some of the folks in our congregation who had lost their homes in the fire. Their faith and optimism was, naturally, inspiring. The theme of the evening was that whatever we deal with, whatever we face, God is still with us. And He is enough for us.
In my book, I talk a little bit about Batman’s independent streak. He’s the ultimate loner, really: If he needed to sweep some cobwebs from the Batcave, I can’t imagine him asking his neighbor for a ladder, either. But when you study the guy, you find he has tons of friends and partners to help him, to walk through the fire with him. “You know, for a loner, you certainly have yourself a lot of strings,” Catwoman says in Hush. And he needs them all.
I love freedom. I love independence. I love the ability that we have in this country to make our own way, to decide our own leaders, to create our own destiny.
But part of me thinks it’d be great to set aside another holiday, too: Dependence Day. It’d be a day to celebrate the folks in our lives who we know would go through the fire with us. To honor those who, when we stumble, come alongside to and walk with us—whether we think we need their help or not.