For 241 years, America has been celebrating our independence. The people living in the colonies in the 1700’s experienced an increasingly tyrannical relationship with England, whose leaders were taxing the lifeblood out of the citizens, (hmmm, sound familiar?). As history tells it, England did not want to let the easy money (tax dollars) go and the colonists, who were scrabbling in poverty as it was, grew weary of paying it. What resulted was the two having a long, very messy breakup.
Ever since that time in 1776, Americans have made a great deal of noise about our freedom, particularly and literally on the 4th of July. Being independent is not only part of the culture, but bred into our DNA. It is revealed in the way we hold ourselves, we’ve been told by those from a communist country. We have been accused of arrogance, pride, and often to our befuddlement, all manner of evil due to the freedom and the resulting independence that has been afforded to Americans by our ancestors and those who have fought for it. Cultures where interdependence is key to living and survival would not and do not comprehend the fierce desire of an average American to live and be independent. While I can see that some of that is gradually changing with the millennials and upcoming generations, I submit that up until recent years every generation has, for the most part, assumed the American independent identity as an honor, a gift and as a right of passage to pass on to the next generation.
After all, everyone I hear protesting about everything on God’s green earth certainly want the independence and freedom to do so, right? That would never fly, say in Russia or North Korea. They get arrested there…and seldom see the light of day, again…just sayin.
In the days leading up to the 4th of July, I’ve been reading a book by Beth Guckenberger called, Start With Amen. Beth and her husband, Todd, are missionaries in Mexico and also run a ministry for orphans headquartered in Indianapolis named Back2Back. I have forced myself to read her book slowly so that I can ponder and glean what is there for me to glean. This woman has a lot of experiences with God and I want to learn from her! For starters, I learned that Amen represents complete dependence; rather than a sign-off to prayer, its intent is to describe a position of surrender and submission before our Father.
The word dependence continued to be highlighted in my spirit while reading this book, likely because I’m naturally an introvert and can easily be a loner. It’s quite easy to wear the banner of independence when the truth is, I just don’t want to be bothered with other people when I find myself in a season of busyness, (that catch-all term most Americans use as a ‘good excuse’ to get out of doing what we don’t want to do). Or, perhaps I’ve had my feelings hurt – I’d rather isolate than confront, at least initially, even if that means the relationship suffers. In that case, my “independence” is merely a defense mechanism put in place to protect myself.
Brennan Manning spoke to that in one of his books:
To practice poverty of spirit calls us not to take offense or to be supersensitive to criticism. The majority of hurts in our lives, the endless massaging of the latest bruise to our wounded ego, feelings of anger, grudges, resentment, and bitterness come from our refusal to embrace our abject poverty, from our obsession with our rights, from our need for esteem in the eyes of others. If I follow the counsel of Jesus and take the last place, I won’t be shocked when others put me there, too. (Lion and Lamb)
Dependence is everywhere in Scripture, despite our Americanized version of Church. Throughout the Old Testament, the children of Israel traveled in one, LARGE group, helping each other, hurting each other. We can excuse it as tribal, customs, you know, Old Testament! But then there is that pesky example of the early church; I mean, what were they? A commune?! Doing all things together, sharing everything, going from house to house…
What is an independent American supposed to do with that? Do we have to move in together??? Can’t we meet somewhere in the middle?
Yes, I believe so, but it can still be messy; caring deeply usually is.
Beth Guckenberger gives some guidance in her book, which I hope you will read. However, the New Testament counsels us well with 59 ‘one anothers’ – 15 of which are “Love one another” and several are “do nots” to one another. Nevertheless, if we would allow ourselves to become vulnerable enough to practice loving others above ourselves,
bearing with one another
submitting to one another
being kind and compassionate to one another
in humility, considering others better than ourselves
encourage one another daily
pray for each other
…well, you get the idea.
When we practice the one anothers of Scripture we grow to depend on each other instead of being the busy lone ranger who doesn’t have time for others. It can be a frightening thing, reaching out to love others, letting them into my insular world. I’m learning, however gradually, that whatever small amount I invest in the lives of others, the rewards reaped are vast.
You will, too.