Dreading the Fourth of July

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I have a secret. I dread the Fourth of July every summer.

Not because I hate America or hot dogs or independence or even the fireworks that threaten to wake up my darling sleeping kids (though that last one kind of, yes). But because with the arrival of July 4, it feels like we’ve reached the beginning of the end of the summer season that I love so very much. My brain tells me that the summer solstice was less than two weeks back, but my heart cries for another season soon to be at an end. Nonsensical? Perhaps. But it’s true.

I remember talking to my father-in-law one year at a Fourth cookout. “What is it about this holiday that has me kind of low?” I kind of mused, more to myself than to anyone in particular. “It’s all downhill after this,” he replied. I looked at him, and we both just nodded in agreement. Maybe my Independence Day doldrums are more universal than I thought.

Here we are now, at the end of July. With the turn of the calendar comes August and back to school and crowded calendars and shorter days and … the whole cycle starts all over again. It can sometimes seem so overwhelming, so nonstop, that it can feel crushing.

But wait, my brain gnaws at me again. Life should not be crushing. Life, after all, is a gift. And is this the attitude of a grateful recipient?

Most certainly not.

‘Remain in me’

Jesus’ words echo in my head, and I push them toward my heart: “Remain in me, as I remain in you” (Jn 15:4).

Pause, stop, breathe. Rest, and turn to him. It is in Jesus we are to live, not our calendars or our to-do lists or our household chores and the piles of laundry (is it just me?) that remain woefully undone. It is with him we are to abide, breathing in and breathing out the daily trials and joys of life. And this is where peace shall be found. This is where sanctuary shall be found. This is where joy shall be found.

“Remain in me.”

Smell the roses

I thought of this phrase when I was recently participating in a small group conversation. So many people commented on how they felt Jesus was calling them to slow down, to stop and smell the roses, and to be appreciative of the moment that they were in rather than moving on to the next one. One woman, who lived quite near the ocean, spoke about how she hadn’t been there in years. She made the decision to go that week.

The seeds of gratitude took root in that conversation. Jesus was inviting them, and through them, me, to take a beat — to remember what really is important, and what my correct attitude should be.

The Fourth of July might be over, summer might be waning. But every day, every moment, offers us the opportunity to do what really matters: to sit with the Lord, to talk with the Lord, to grow in relationship with the Lord — for it is in these moments that he gives us the strength to tackle all others.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing,” Jesus tells us. “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples” (Jn 15:5, 8).

Contemplating Christ

Speaking on Aug. 6, the Feast of the Transfiguration, in 2017, Pope Francis spoke about how the ascent of the disciples up Mount Tabor gives us the opportunity “to reflect on the importance of disengaging from worldly matters, in order to make a journey toward heaven and to contemplate Jesus.”

This, he said “is a matter of being attentive to the careful and prayerful listening of Christ, the beloved Son of the Father, seeking intimate moments of prayer that allow for the docile and joyful welcoming of the Word of God.”

Summer, he added, is an ideal time to get ourselves in this mindset, a “providential time to cultivate our task of seeking and encountering the Lord.”

He’s right. Summer is an ideal time for this — at its beginning and at its end (or even just its perceived end). But so is every day. In Jesus we remain. And in us, he remains right back.

Gretchen R. Crowe

Gretchen R. Crowe is the editor-in-chief of OSV News.