Saturday, July 30, 2011

Independence: (part 3) richness in relationship.

I heard a campus minister talk a couple of weeks ago about the primary indicators of a strong long-term relationship with Christ for young adults.  More than regular devotions or attending regular worship services, the topic indicator of a healthy, flourishing, and lasting relationship with Jesus for young adults was how many strong believers the individual was connected with.

St. Louis Zoo in the rain.  Some of my favorite people ever.

The last several days I've been staying at my best friends' home.  They recently moved from Minnesota and when given a very generous offer by a loving family (what an awesome act of being the Church--I am so grateful) to give me a ride down because they were making the trip, I jumped aboard.  It's been a week to remember.  My heart is full because of people whom I'm deeply known and loved by, people who encourage me in faith and ministry, people who can tell me the truth and be genuine, love me inspite of me, and have my best interest at heart.  This week has been so good for my soul.  I am drinking deeply.  I'm reminded once again, on such a deep level, how much our health depends on community.  I can demonstrate this in a few different areas.

The first, spiritually.  Just as I mentioned above, we need to be spurred on by one another.  It's so easy to come up with our own odd ideas about things or convince ourselves that something is okay even when it isn't.  Deitrich Bonhoeffer said in his book, Life Together, (a total must read about Christian community--my copy is at home, so this is a close paraphrase), said something like this: God has given us community to speak the Gospel to each other when telling ourselves isn't enough.  We need to be constantly reminded of truth because the enemy seeks to destroy with lies that we may not even be aware of, but others might see.  We need to encourage one another, speak truth and forgiveness to one another, and speak the Gospel to each other when we need to hear it from someone else.  This is why we are the Body.

My church has a slogan about our community that says "nobody walks alone."  Our pastor is clear to say "this is not a promise, but a challenge."  Living in community and surrendering independence is difficult.  Letting people see your junk and call you on it is tough.  Getting outside of yourself to walk alongside someone else will take time, energy, and giving of self.  It is not always easy, but it is rich.  This is how our lives our best lived: together.

I've seen how living life with others has helped me physically.  The chances that I'll eat healthier or exercise increase drastically when I have company.  I'm healthier mentally because I'm forced to get out of my own head of thoughts (which can be dangerous for anyone if too much time is spent there) and moved to think of and pray for others.  I find myself being more emotionally balanced because I can "get my words out" and learn compassion for others.  I learn to love and feel and allow people to see what is raw in me.  It's terrifying, but beautiful.  I have basked in that this past week.  Thank you, Lord.

The point of this isn't to say that you should always be with people or even grow to dependence on others, but don't be self-sufficient.  You can't do it alone and it's way better if you decide not to.  The thing about it is, Bonhoeffer also talked a lot about alone time.  He warned to be careful of being unable to have alone time and to those who loved alone time, to be wary of the inability to be together with others.  God doesn't want us to give up being alone, but not because He wants to encourage independence.  Time alone is creating utter dependence on Him and continually going to a place that reminds us we are nothing without His grace and His Word.  We are nothing without the reconciliation of Christ in our relationship with God.

There is such richness in relationship.  True relationship cannot exist in the presence of undying independence.  Lay it down.  As Jack Johnson would say: "it's better together."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

independence (pt 2): it wasn't in the plan.

An exciting, yet delayed second blog entry about independence has arrived.  I think I could even attribute the delay of this entry to my surrendering of independence.

I recently moved and now have a roommate.  She is a dear friend of mine and we have spent many hours already moving, organizing, sorting, and arranging.  Not to mention, talking, laughing,'s only been a week, and we've already been emotional.  We're girls.  It's what we do.

My roomie and I in Israel.  We be tough...and a little crazy.
With two strong women living together, the topic of independence has come up several times in our conversations.  This was one of the most recent thoughts passed around.

The creation story.  I'm amazed at how much it speaks to independence.  It wasn't in the plan.  God--a community by God's very nature, three persons--decided to bring humanity into being. 

"Then God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness...'"

He breathed His own breath into Adam.  Adam was made dependent on God.  God gave Him land, plants, animals, breath, water.  Everything.  Not only did God provide Adam with all he needed, but God provided the systems that had needs.  He designed Adam in a way that He could care for Adam.  He designed Adam as one dependent on God.  It was a beautiful relationship.

Even so, God noticed something.

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

We were made in the image of a communal God.  Even while Adam was in a perfect relationship with God, He called Adam being alone on the earth "not good"--the only "not good" thing on earth before the fall!  Loneliness isn't wrong.  We weren't made to be alone, but in community, BOTH with God and others.

We need community.  God says so.  Doing our own thing wasn't in the plan.  Then that whole fruit thing happened....yep...independence is enticing.  Eve wanted to be like God, not dependent upon God.  How often do we do the same thing?  It's a daily struggle to surrender to God's will which includes yielding to, working together with, and forgiving those that I'm in community with.  It is allowing myself to be "inconvenienced by community" because we weren't made to be alone.

Independence.  No matter how enticing, accept that this is not our best life.  It never has been and never will be in the plan.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

independence: the series.

I used to jam to this song...

I would think..."yeah, that's right...I'm Miss Independent."  Not actually realizing that the song is all about breaking that whole tough exterior down for the sake of love.  We could learn a thing or two from Miss Clarkson.

This post is the first of several about you and me and our unhealthy need for independence.

 It's something that we strive for in our society.  It's something we admire of some and shame of others for lacking it.  Despite all this, I heard Jeff Deyo say a couple of weeks ago: "Independence is the greatest deterrent of intimacy."  As tough as it is to say, I am starting to agree.

Before you get all defensive and say "Shelly, you are way off...independence means strength and knowing who you are and it is necessary," let me just say 2 things:

1.  I'm writing this because I am chief of sinners in this department and fully claim that.  I've LOVED my independence and lived in it to the full.  I've loved the fact that I'm a strong, independent woman.  I've loved it too much.  I have been convicted of this and see the destruction it has caused and continues to cause in my life and I know I'm not alone.

2.  The definition of independence is as follows:
"freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.

Will you let that sink in for a minute?  What does that mean for our culture and our relationships with others?  What does that mean for our relationship with God?

Take some time to really dig into those questions.  Let me know what you think.

The next few posts are going to dig into what Scripture has to say about independence as well as some cool stuff God is teaching me at the moment.  I know that this is a huge challenge for many people living in many meantimes, especially the single meantime.  It's my prayer that together God will reveal to us how life best works in relationship with Him and others and show us what is preventing us from living in those relationships.  Stay tuned.