The world sends us mixed messages. No surprise. Often, in the same ads we’re told we can achieve independence by using product ABC. The contradiction should be obvious: we can only find our independence by becoming dependent upon their product! We’re told that owning that certain vehicle will give us the independence we all need and deserve and all it will take is our signature on the line that surrenders any hope of independence for years to come.
We encourage our children to grow up to be independent, self-supporting and self-reliant. We want them to believe that there is nothing that they can’t do or achieve. We hope that we can instill in them all of the necessary traits that lead to success.
In part, there’s nothing wrong with this. It is our duty as parents to teach our children the values and attitudes that will make them strong, healthy adults. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, ESV).
But in priming ourselves and our children for independence are we weakening our faith? We desire independence, but is this desire setting us at odds with our Creator? Is independence really a euphemism for rebellion?
Jesus used the image of a vine to help us understand His position on the matter. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, ESV). The roots of a tree or vine stabilize it, nourish and provide for it. In His explanation of the parable of the sower to His disciples, Jesus said, “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself… immediately he falls away” (Matthew 13:20-21, ESV, emphasis mine).
I’ve been trying to be more mindful of God’s presence and activity in every area of my life. My successes I owe to Him. My failures I owe to my independent self. Brother Andrew, a Carmelite monk from the 17th century, said, “We are made for God, and for Him, alone…. In God we shall see more clearly what we lack than we could in ourselves by all our introspection; which in reality is but the remnant, unexpelled, of self-love, which, under the guise of zeal for our own perfection, keeps our gaze down on self instead of raised to God” (The Practice of the Presence of God, Hendrickson Publishers, 2004, p.99).
I think any sincere Christian seeking to grow in Jesus would eventually arrive at the same conclusion: I am utterly dependent upon God.
Blessings on the remainder of your week!