Every year we celebrate Independence Day, acknowledging the day we were able to stand on our own as a nation free from British rule. This year I am reminded of my own independent streak.  For better or worse, independence has been my “go to” most of my life. What I once viewed as maturity I now know is just self-protection. It has been a hard lesson that I’m sure I will continue to grapple with until Heaven.

“Miss Independent”

Growing up, I was always very mature for my age.  I took great pride in that fact, as though it made me more accomplished somehow. In my mind immaturity meant weakness, and weakness was BAD.  My mamma always told me never to depend on a man because a man will let you down.  She was right. Men will let you down….and so will women….because we are all flawed human beings. Mom had been let down a lot, so her words were meant to protect her baby girl from the pain she had suffered.  Thus after many years of following her example, I grew into a mature and fiercely independent woman {cue the theme song… “I can bring home the bacon. Da na na na. Fry it up in a pan. Da na na na…”}.

So what was the message I interpreted from that? Depending on others will only lead to disappointment. So don’t depend on anyone. Conversely, if you aren’t dependable, you will be a disappointment. So whatever you do, don’t let anyone down…ever.  I was voted “Most Dependable” in high school. Are you surprised? And I came through by golly, whatever it took. I made myself indispensable to others while not needing anyone in return.

I became a Christian in college and applied that independent spirit to my Christian walk as well. Just tell me what to do, I’ll do it, and then I’ll teach others how to do it. “I got this!” should have been my motto. Honestly I thought I was a huge help to God! I mean, while he was busy saving the world, I was taking care of my little piece just fine…no need to worry about me over here God. I pictured him busy with all the sheep he had to rescue and carry, but I could freely prance along beside him (ok, if I’m being honest, maybe even a little ahead of him). Wasn’t I a good sheep?!

Here is the problem…I WASN’T CREATED FOR INDEPENDENCE! I was…and you were…created in the image of God, and God is relational.

“The Lame Sheep”

I remember the day God revealed the isolation and ugliness of my independence. I was at a retreat in the midst of a powerful time of worship. The song we were singing had me praising God as my Shepherd. As I pictured a field of sheep next to a cool stream I could see myself as the safe sheep lounging under the shade tree, the well-provided-for sheep drinking from the stream…I could even see myself as the sheep rescued from the mouth of the lion. Lost in visualizing myself as each of these little sheep, I gave thanks for my Shepherd all along the way. Then I remembered the lame sheep, the one who has to be carried on the shepherd’s shoulders because it can’t walk on its own, and my heart almost stopped as everything in me went into resistance. In that moment I begged, “OH PLEASE GOD! DON’T MAKE ME BE THE LAME SHEEP!” Even as the prayer was being uttered in my head I was hearing his response. “But it’s the lame sheep that gets carried closest to my heart.”

That did comfort me in that moment of panic as well as in the months that followed as I was invited to the arms of God to suffer with a health issue. However, even then I was looking toward the day that I was “all fixed” and able to scurry down and resume my place to prance along the path. But oh the kindness of my Father who loves me enough to time and time again invite me back into his embrace!

 

“On His Shoulders”

It seems that suffering has defined much of my life the past few years. I have experienced depths of pain that I never knew I could. God has used challenging circumstances to shake the things that can be shaken, so that what remains will be unshakable.

What I once viewed as maturity I now know is just self-protection.

The one thing I keep coming back to is his presence. No matter what I think or I feel, I am never alone. God’s presence is a constant that provides security in the midst of chaos. There upon his shoulders I can see the tears falling down his face and I can feel the shudders as he sobs with me.  My suffering is not something he observes, it is something he enters into with me. His heart breaks with mine. And as I look long into his tear-filled eyes I hear, “I know you cannot see the whole picture. But trust in this – If there was a better way my Beloved, I would have chosen it.

Though I might have preferred my invitation in a prettier package, suffering seems to drive me to the dependence my soul desperately needs…even if my flesh resists.  It is on his shoulders that my ear is closest to his voice, so that I hear the faintest whisper. And it is as I rest there that my heartbeat gets in sync with his. THAT is the place I want to learn to live from, whether I am in a season of suffering or rejoicing.  It is in this place of dependence that I find true freedom.

 


One Step Further:

  1. What is the protective strategy you tend to go to when circumstances get difficult?
  2. How might God be asking you to trust him in a new way?
  3. How might God want you to experience his presence today?