I will never forget my oldest daughter’s first 4th of July. Ellen was born in March, so she would have been less than five months old at the time. We were living in rural Minnesota and decided to attend the municipal fireworks display in Pease.
The fireworks were to start at dusk just after the city league softball games finished up. We had to park a ways away because the event attracted folks from miles around. There must have been a thousand people there. That’s more than the entire population of that little town. With Ellen in the stroller, my wife and I walked to the ball field and got the closest spot of ground we could find. We spread a blanket out and sat about 50 yards behind the right-field fence. I had Ellen on my lap, and my wife was to my right. In the dying light, I could see what looked like a row of parking lot posts just about 50 feet away from us. It was interesting that no one had parked near them.
As the ballgame ended and darkness fell, an electric anticipation grew among the crowd of farmers and their youngsters. We had heard the Pease display was a big deal, and the little town was pretty proud of it.
There was no sound system, so no announcement or music preceded the first mortar shot. To my surprise, it came out of one of those parking lot posts just fifty feet away. Even more surprising, that first shot went up only about 20 feet and then fell back to the ground and blew up…less than 50 feet away from us! I did my best to protect my baby from shrapnel and covered her ears. That was an exciting experience, but I told my wife I was sure that would be the only misfire of the evening.
A few seconds later the second mortar shot went off. And once again it only went a few feet up before falling in the field and blowing up. And this time the explosion dispersed a load of smaller explosives which showered the field and us nearby spectators and popped all around!
That was it! We had seen enough! My wife and I were on our feet snatching up our blanket and stroller and running! I was hugging Ellen for dear life. I don’t think we dropped below a trot before we got to our car half a mile away! The rest of the display was probably incident-free, but I could not testify to that. We didn’t see it. My wife was so shaken she didn’t even want to stay and watch the show from a distance.
Looking back, we probably shouldn’t have brought our five-month-old baby to a fireworks display. Thank God she was not injured and suffered no long-term ill effects. And we may have been sitting too close to the launch tubes. But so were a lot of other people.
You know, come to think of it, I guess that’s how it is with sin. Sometimes we follow the crowds and try to get as close to the excitement as we can without getting hurt, but then we realize we’re too close as the Devil reaches out and tries to harm us. Only by the grace of God can we escape a situation like that. Better yet, we should never put ourselves into a situation like that in the first place.
The lesson here is not every fireworks display has a clearly marked seating area, and it is possible to get too close. Similarly, the Devil doesn’t post warning signs either, so it’s up to us to give sin a wide berth.
May you have a safe and happy Independence Day. And may it be as memorable as Ellen’s first one…well, almost.