Waves and shadows (Part 2) – a lesson in dependence

A time for everything

It’s said that there is a time and a place for everything: a time to laugh and a time to mourn; a time to sow and a time to harvest; a time for coffee and (presumably) a time for chocolate.  Now is probably a good time – if you haven’t already – to read Waves and Shadows (Part 1).  In Part 1 I talked about standing on our own two feet.  Now I’m going to talk about dependence.

An introduction to beaches and the sea

As you are aware by now, our family has recently returned from holiday.  Our holiday destination was, as usual, Mónica’s native southern Spain.  To be more precise, we went to the beach.

Now, the Spanish beach offers many of the same activities which will be familiar to frequenters of more northern beaches, such as those of the UK.  There are ice creams to be eaten, sandcastles to be built, channels to be dug, and rockpools to be explored for alien lifeforms.  But Spain boasts an additional attraction: THE SEA.  Yes, I know we have the sea in the UK, but here I tend to limit myself to wading in up to my knees and splashing about a bit.  Some daredevil may streak past me, plunging headlong into the deeper water only to emerge again five minutes later an attractive shade of purple.  But on the whole I find the sea in the UK more challenging than welcoming.

In Spain, on the other hand, the sea welcomes you with open arms, enticing you to immerse yourself in the balmy waters and allow yourself to be bobbed and buoyed by the rolling waves.

Or at least , I think it does.  Elías (4) disagrees.  He is fine with that description until it comes to the waves.  The booming, pounding, terrifying waves.  The waves which threaten to engulf, consume and devour him.  No, Elías does not like the waves.

It was, therefore, a relief to find a solution which worked for everyone concerned. We all went into the sea. When the waves became high enough to splash Elías’ face, I took his hands and helped him jump over them. When his feet no longer touched the bottom, I lifted him clear of them. As the water got deeper, even I had to jump. And when I did I held Elías above my head, clear of the waves.

This worked marvellously. Until Elías saw the size of one incoming wave. It was big. And as I prepared to lift him, he forgot all about our solution. He decided he needed to save himself.  He wanted to be in control when the wave hit.  He clung tight to my neck, preventing me from lifting him up. And the wave hit us both full on…

The myth

There is a curious myth that has taken hold in society.  To a greater or lesser extent, we who are God’s toddlers have accepted it unquestioningly. The myth is: Independence is desirable.

We think independence is desirable when it comes to God. Yes, we might rely on God’s grace for our salvation, but we’d rather live our own plans and just ask God’s blessing on them. Or perhaps we will ask God what he wants us to do, and then try and do it our way, and in our strength. We want to be in control when the waves hit.

But perhaps a more beguiling variation on this myth is that we think independence is desirable when it comes to the community of God’s toddlers (traditionally “Church”, if you must).  We’re often happy to embrace the fact that we need to help other people.  We can be much less happy to embrace the fact that it’s a good thing to be helped by those around us. We’ve come to believe that reliance on others is a sign of weakness; that it puts us in their debt; that it just means we failed to do it ourselves.  And we want to be in control when the waves hit.

We’ve forgotten that Jesus created a community of followers, not individuals.  We’ve forgotten how many of God’s instructions to this community are reciprocal: “Love each other“; “Be devoted to each other“.  Nobody can live out this kind of reciprocal community if everyone is trying to be independent.

And when we start to examine some of the problems with reliance on others, they don’t stack up.

  • It’s a sign of weakness?  But simply accepting Christ’s grace is an admission that we can’t do it all by ourselves.
  • It puts us in their debt?  But every member of that community owes everything to Jesus, so how could we be in debt to each other?
  • We’ve failed to do things ourself?  But if we’re called to be in community, not doing it by ourselves is a success, not a failure.

So why do we find it so difficult to let go of control?

I think there’s a challenge as to whether we are prepared to let go of the myth that independence is good.  To recognise that God designed us to live in a constant state of interdependence.

If not, we can cling onto control. And when the waves hit, we will keep clinging on. And we will emerge on the other side, battered but in one piece. But we will never be borne aloft by our loving father and the hands of those he has put around us.

© Photo of wave LJ Mears 

© Text 2013 Paul Brownnutt

Creative Commons License

Being God’s Toddler by Paul Brownnutt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Today’s post is brought to you by 1 Corinthians 12:15-26 Read the whole story here