Independence Can’t Buy Me Love

We Don’t Have To Be Independent, Self-Sufficient Problem Solvers.

Cali Yee / 8.27.21

I hear a lot of talk about independence the older I get. And I get it, I really do, independence is important if you want to successfully find a place to live in besides your parents basement. It’s also important if you want to find a job that can support you, but more importantly, one that can indulge your newfound pescatarian lifestyle and sustain your iPhone upgrades. 

Being independent certainly has its upsides. For example, I can buy all the chocolate chip mini muffins I want without my grandma telling me to eat my vegetables. The Little Debbie snacks come at a price though: my ability to make such choices means that I am an adult, which in turn means that I have to participate in “adulting”(I’m gen-z, but I was also born in the 90s, so maybe I am allowed to use that Millennial phrase?).

Adulting is fun and all, but there is the vast amount of pressure we (along with society) place upon ourselves to be completely independent and thus, dependent on nothing and no one. We are expected to be self-sufficient. We are supposed to value efficiency and hard work. Why was I never told how much work it would be being Miss Independent? Problems need to be fixed, preferably before our lunch break.  If your car breaks down, you have to take it to the mechanic. If you want food, you have to cook it (or DoorDash it). The bills that arrive have your name on it.  If you are dealing with poor mental health, you better check what kind of therapy your insurance covers so that you can be better by next month (as if there are time constraints on your progress and improvement). 

Being independent (all the while bragging: I’m *so* independent) feels especially wonderful when life is going well. It may even feel like you’re thriving, or, to use the New York Times’ favorite word: flourishing

But when things don’t go as planned and control starts to fall through the cracks, our self-reliance, well — shatters. Our failures have been exposed to not just ourselves but also to others. And what we find is an anxious millennial, gen-z’er, gen-x’er, gen-whatever who wishes for the simpler times of childhood — the times when your mom would bring you chicken-noodle soup and Sierra Mist when you were sick in bed. The times when the only thing you had to worry about was what Disney movie you wanted to watch. Or, in other words, a time when we weren’t afraid to be dependent on others or things outside of ourselves. 

The significance society places upon self-reliance makes any thought of dependence as unnerving and invalidated. This idea of being reliant upon anything disrupts the independence we have carefully curated for ourselves. Is there any valid reason why you would burden someone else with your problems? 

The fear of being a burden is a real fear. After all, while we crave acceptance and belonging, we don’t want anything to expose our weaknesses or do anything to annoy our friends. We split the bar tab, rather than the exchange of gifts that create a sense of indebtedness and obligation. Friendship, we believe, is a two-way street. We don’t want to admit how much we might actually need our friends. We wait for them to message us first. Social schedules are meticulously planned to the specific hour that is most acceptable. We certainly wouldn’t just drop by out of the blue to hang out. The last thing we’d want is to inconvenience someone. 

But the truth is, we need those relationships. Otherwise we are stuck with our anxious and angry selves to depend on for our own health and wellbeing. If you remember anything from television dads, you know that their attempt at building the tree house all by themselves never ends well. Left to our own devices, we forget that we were created for relationships — relationships that allow us to be vulnerable, and ultimately, loved.

The beautiful thing about the Gospel is that God doesn’t play by our carefully crafted social rules for engagement. It is neither dependent nor affected by us. And because it is objective, meaning it cannot be burdened by our brokenness and failures, we are able to fully depend on its saving grace. 

The Gospel is News not only because it addresses our plight, but also because it comes wholly from outside of ourselves…It is vital that the news comes from somewhere external to us. A broken machine cannot fix itself nor, as theologian Rudolf Bultmann once observed, can someone sinking in a swamp pull himself out by tugging upward on his own hair. Knowledge relates to and empowers the self, which helps the self solve the everyday problems and hurdles it faces. But when the problem is the self, help must come from outside: must be News that we cannot manipulate (because we would botch it), but is objectively true.

God is not weighed down by our hurt, failures, or problems. Jesus can handle all of it, even our struggle with surrendering our need for control. He also isn’t tapping His foot incessantly, waiting for us to become independent, self-reliant, problem solvers. Instead, he has a habit of dropping by when we least expect it.

 

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