Our culture places a high premium on independence (in many ways it was the notion on which our country founded). We love the idea of being the master of our own destiny, holding the reins to our own life and sitting in the captain’s chair. It’s quite easy to get intoxicated with the thought that we are in control.
I think one of the reasons we love the idea of independence is because with it comes the image of strength, power and success. We love stories of the ‘self made man or woman.’ People who have made it on their own with help from no one. People who can pull themselves up by their own boot straps and forge ahead in life without anything getting in their way. We are captivated by these stories.
The movie The Pursuit of Happyness is one such story. It’s the story of a homeless man struggling to hold down a job while raising his son on the streets of San Francisco, bouncing from shelter to shelter, even sleeping in public restrooms in order to survive. And as the movie goes on, through hard work and determination the main character turns his life around and goes from being a homeless man to a millionaire. It’s the portrayal of rugged individualism and the American Dream at its finest. We love these stories. I love these stories, this story in particular. Stories such as these are very motivating, inspiring and capture our imagination.
But for those who are followers of The Way, being shaped by such stories can have a subtle unintended negative effect. The concept of the ‘self made man or woman’ is actually antithetical to the life of Jesus. Those who are followers of Jesus are shaped and live by a radically different story. A story based not on independence, “I need help from no one”, but rather a story based in dependence, “I can do nothing on my own”.
One day while Jesus was being questioned by the Jewish leaders for healing on the Sabbath he said, “The Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5v19). The story of independence revolves around me, my desires and getting the things that I want. The story of Jesus, the story of dependence, revolves around submitting my life and desires to God in order to see what it is God wants; what God wants in me, from me and through me.
I don’t mean to imply that there is anything wrong with success, rather what I’m saying is that a life postured by dependence is open to things that a life postured by independence is not. A life that is postured by dependence on God is open to:
stepping out of ones comfort zone to love others
and is fine with receiving nothing in return,
letting go of status and power in order to serve the “least of these,”
relinquishing control of the results and giving yourself away
simply for the sake of being faithful and obedient.
Those who live by story of dependence live radical lives. They discover that true freedom is found not through independence, rather true freedom comes by way of submission and dependence, submitting your life to its original intention and design. We were created to find all of who we are in God and reflect back to him his likeness. When live by this story we discover true living…, true reality…, the good life. We discover what it means to be truly human. So…
May we let go of the reigns of our lives,
May we let go of trying to control results and outcomes,
May we submit our lives to the Father, in whom true freedom is found.