Here we are approaching Independence Day, and, appropriately, my life has come around again to the theme of independence which I wrote about in last year’s Christmas letter. I have found that much like a spiral staircase, I revisit previous life lessons all the time, learning more the second or third time around.
Independence is highly valued not only in our country’s international relations but in our own personal lives. As a woman, this ability to be financially and socially independent is a relatively new phenomenon. Thus, I dare say, many of us who have attained this celebrated goal are apt to take pride in it and hold onto it for security. Now, unlike others in this pool, I did not set independence as a life goal from my childhood. Rather, it was a consolation prize after the more desirable marriage and motherhood goals were not readily attainable. Perhaps it is for this reason that, strangely enough, I have found myself quite attached to my ability to be independent.
To those that criticize women for insisting to men that they can open the door themselves, thank you, I want to offer a personal insight. I think it is kind for anyone to help anyone regardless of gender. If a man is carrying a box, I am apt to hold the door for him rather than expect him to still manage to get it for himself and me. However, in an instance when getting my own door is not a difficulty for me, I do feel threatened in a small way by a man insisting on getting it for me. Although seemingly unreasonable to that man, his insistence makes my sense of self-sufficiency diminish. I am not saying it should, nor am I implying that I should refuse the kind gesture. My point is that I, as a human, have been disappointed, hurt, and abandoned by others, and, as a result, naturally resolve that the only person on whom I can always depend not to fail or hurt me is myself. If that ability to protect and care for myself is threatened, I am left with not a soul to rely on, so how dare you make any suggestion otherwise! Now, I know that is a lie. Don’t worry, I am not saying that is a healthy or right response, but it’s my gut reaction.
I know this lie to be false. I have a wonderful family which is often there for me and certainly will be there for me should I direly need them. As a Christian, this is also a lie because God is dependable and always present with me, not to mention my friends and the church that surround me. However, most of the time, especially recently, this reality has been clouded by that lie because my feelings and thoughts profess the lie to be true.
My facade of always doing well, being strong and capable of providing for myself, and being the stronghold for others has cracked. The lie of it being me against the world has worn my strength down to nothing. The last thing I had of my own to hold onto is gone. I am weak. I am broken, and I still feel the lie that I can only rely on myself to be true–so now that I am not self-sufficient and strong, I am hopeless.
Hopeless. Well on my own, I was always hopeless. I was never good enough for anyone to love me. I am never going to be either. It’s tough to swallow, but that’s why Jesus came, right? That’s why I believe in his saving work, because mine would never be enough. So here I am relearning the gospel I first believed twenty years ago.
Paul wrote, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Many times in my early faith I wondered at this paradox. For when I am weak, he is strong. When I acknowledge my weakness, I recognize and need his strength to strengthen me. However, I am not strong yet. I am still weak. I am in the water with Peter, except that I didn’t decide to get out of the boat. It sunk beneath me. Now I am in a deciding place. Do I keep believing the lie that I am only able depend on myself and drown because I have failed myself, or do I decide to believe that I can depend on Jesus, my God, and let him not just keep my head above the water but put my feet upon it? I feel one way, but I want the other.
O Lord, I believe, help my disbelief.