After many years of diverse career experience, I was excitedly counting down the days until my retirement. I eagerly anticipated being in control of my schedule and time while enjoying a slower pace of life. I envisioned more days devoted to serving in ministry at my church and deepening relationships...
I love playing the hero.
And when I say “love,” what I mean is that I simply cannot resist the tendency to do so. To appear weak before other people, to admit that I cannot perform certain functions or that I’m at a loss, often seems like the worst kind of failure.
So I pull up my bootstraps, wipe the sweat off my brow, and pretend I’m Miss Independent.
The last time this happened in a grand scale was not my proudest moment. A significant foot injury had landed me in a hard cast for six weeks. The doctor’s instructions were to “take it easy” and elevate my lower half as often as possible.
Somehow, in my unspoken desire for independence I interpreted those instructions as, “Go grocery shopping, even though your foot hurts, and don’t bother to ask for anyone’s help.”
Needless to say, that shopping trip ended with a face full of streaming tears, while my injured foot throbbed even more incessantly in pain.
Yes, I should’ve admitted to my need and asked for the help I so flippantly rejected.
Such is the condition of man. Our sinful nature tells us that we are independent creatures on a lifelong journey to deeper autonomy. We believe that life is about “finding ourselves.” We believe that the way to reach happiness is to follow our hearts and to do justice to our unique, independent persons.
Isn’t this the case every time I demand before my husband that “my way is the right way”? Isn’t it the case every time I convince myself that physical beauty will make me feel better about myself? Or how about those instances when one mistake at work sends my anxious thoughts over the edge, and I grow worried about my fragile reputation?
Glorying in our independence is an ironic dead-end road.
The Results of Our “Independence”
We quickly learn that this way of thinking leads to the following results:
Selfishness. If I want what I want, but I do not get what I want, then I potentially grow increasingly self-focused, wondering how and why I did not attain my goal. If succumbed to, my independent thinking will only lead to a “plan B” and further selfish ambition.
Frustration. If I make my life all about me and my own plans then, when things don’t go “my way,” I will feel entitled to my rights and, therefore, frustrated. If succumbed to, my independent thinking will only lead to an even stronger sense of self-deserving.
Bitterness. If life is all about the journey, and if people or circumstances become obstacles in that journey, I will feel upset and antagonistic towards them. If succumbed to, my independent thinking will only lead to anger, blame, tension in my relationships, and a nursing of my personal wounds.
Pride. If I believe that certain worldly pursuits will ultimately make me happy, then any one pursuit that fails will be a blow to my personal pride and dreams. If succumbed to, my independent thinking will only lead to a more narrowed, closed scope of the purpose of life and an inflated sense of my personal responsibility to reach “it” – whatever “it” is.
Selfishness. Frustration. Bitterness. Pride. Interesting results for the seemingly glorious pursuits of a so-called independent life.
Clearly, there are holes in our pursuit of independence. We cannot live this way. Our hearts cry, “There must be more to life than this!” But no matter what we do, our natural tendency is to keep pursuing our own way, our own wisdom. We want what we want.
But the natural results of a pursuit of independence reveal that we simply cannot glory in it. In our search for independence, we are actually losing ourselves.
The Result of Our Dependence
In what or whom do we glory then? Scripture would argue that the secret to our contentment, our joy, and our purpose is actually our dependent need, the losing of our own self-will.
In favor of what, we ask? Of humble, obedient dependence, of glorying in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Dependence on the Son is the key to our ultimate satisfaction and joy. Christ is who we most deeply need, and who will most assuredly set us free from bondage to serving ourselves.
When we place our hope in Christ, the veil of self-glory and spiritual darkness is lifted from our faces:
Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.
But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:12-18).
When we realize that our ultimate satisfaction is found in the Savior of the world, and not in fulfilling our own personal journeys and dreams, the result is our transformation into his likeness brought about by a joy-filled brokenness. We realize how desperately we need grace. Our hardness of heart is softened and broken by the gospel-reality that Christ laid down his own independence and agenda for our sake, to obey his Father and destroy death once for all time.
No longer do failure or weakness or obstacles cause us to fret: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (4:7). We glory in joyful dependence upon Christ! Without him, without his work on the cross, without his perfection gained from suffering and rising to glory, we would be utterly lost to our wayward selfish ambitions and our dark, independent journeys to destruction.
But “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (3:17). So glory in your excellent Lord and Savior this Fourth of July, and be unchained by the freedom of the wonderful cross.
Happy Dependence Day.