One of our daughters is really independent. I mean, REALLY independent. I have said to her many times, “You are independent to a fault.” Now, don’t get me wrong, we are trying to raise our children to be increasingly independent of us. We want them to be independent adults, to each cleave to their spouse, and to thrive in their living and decision making. But this one, and I could tell you some stories, has an “I can do it myself” and “I don’t need anyone else’s help” mentality that does not match her level of maturity or lack thereof. She thinks she knows more than she does.
I have often (in my mind) blamed this trait on her father. He is very independent himself (although he has the maturity that she lacks). But if I am honest with myself, I know that I struggle with it as well.
This struggle became all too clear when I was faced with months of bed rest associated with one of my pregnancies. I quickly realized (and so did David) that we needed help. I also quickly realized that I don’t like asking for help. And it is difficult for me to receive help from others. You see, I was in a vulnerable position. Being in a place of neediness is humbling. Accepting help is humbling. And it was good for me to be humbled in this way.
We live in a culture that celebrates individualism and independence. We are taught to be ourselves, and that freedom is doing what you want to do when you want to do it. The problem is that this is contrary to Scripture. In fact, the very essence of the Gospel is that we are needy. We are needy of only what God can provide, His perfect righteousness and a life lived out in obedience.
Not only the Gospel. But even from the very beginning, before sin entered the world. God shows Adam his neediness. As Adam names the animals, he discovers that there is no “helper suitable” for him. He is alone. Independent. And that is not good.
Even God himself. The triune God of the universe is not alone. The Father, Son, and Spirit are in perfect fellowship together. Man was created in the image of God in their likeness. So like God, we are created for relationships. We are not created to be the proverbial “man on an island.” We are created for fellowship and relationships. To be vulnerable, dependent, and humble with each other.
You see this further when God speaks of the church. A body whose parts are designed to work together, not stand independently. Independently, they do not work properly or do what they are intended to do. They cannot, just like a human body works together. It is a ridiculous picture of them trying to make it on their own.
I know with myself, at its root, this independence is pridefulness. We all struggle with pride. No one likes to see the ugliness of our sin. We don’t want to humble ourselves, and we don’t like it when others around us, close friends, a parent, a spouse-see a huge blind spot in us that needs a light shone on it. But oh, how we need that light!
When my daughter was younger, she hated discipline. Hated it. She would do anything to avoid conflict or discipline. I could raise my eyebrows and give her the mom look, and she would straighten up. If any sort of discipline needed to happen, she would totally reduce herself to a puddle of tears. As a young child, she was very easy to control because of this. But as she has gotten older, I can see more clearly that her avoidance of discipline was more tied to pride than humility.
The folly of pride comes when the correction of discipline is not properly received. What I mean is that you have to be willing to change. None of us are who we should be. So when reading Scripture, conversation with a friend, correction from a parent, or a difficult situation shines a light on some area in our life that doesn’t line up with Christian living, thinking rightly, keeping in step with the Spirit—our response should be repentance that leads to change.
But I also know that there’s another aspect to this independence. It not only hinders the way we receive correction, but it also hinders the way we receive encouragement. My most recent words to my daughter on this subject are, “You not only need to trust people who you know love you when you’re receiving correction, but you also need to trust their perspective when it comes to your abilities.”
What I’ve figured out about her (and, for that matter, myself, too) is that she really struggles to see herself correctly in both directions. She not only needs someone to reveal her blind spots related to sin, but she also has vast blind spots related to her giftedness. She can’t see herself rightly.
I don’t mean empty flattery. When someone flatters you, they are looking to gain something from you. A flatterer tries to butter you up, not build you up. A flatterer sees you as someone who can help them. They ultimately want you to flatter them back. The Scriptures warn us about such people.
No, what I’m talking about here are people who love you enough to tell you the truth about yourself. People who have no personal agenda. Other Christians, who love you for who you are, who are committed to you, to your good, and above all, the glory of Christ. People who are examining themselves (taking the log out of their own eye before they point out the speck in yours). People who speak the truth in love.
You can only receive true encouragement from one who is also willing to offer correction. And from someone who has committed to loving you for you. But when you have someone like that – LISTEN TO THEM. Let their voice, as well as the voice of Christ, help you to grow and mature. Trust yourself less. Trust them more.
After all, isn’t this what true humility is? Seeing yourself as you really are? Isn’t this how you reconcile the Scriptures that talk about your giftedness and those same Scriptures that constantly bring you to your knees as you see your own sin? Isn’t it a constant battle to balance our worth with our unworthiness?
As I seek to help my daughter mature, not only into adulthood but as a Christian woman, I pray for wisdom in the task. Wisdom that comes from fearing the Lord. Wisdom that leads me to examine myself and listen to the reliable voices around me – those who love me and are committed to me and for my good and above all Christ himself. May I continually work on my own plank before I try to remove her speck in humility before Christ. Remembering that my greatest need has already been filled – to be fully known and fully loved for all eternity.
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:12-13)
So for my daughter, my husband and I are working toward her independence from us. There will come a day when she will function as an adult without needing us. But spiritual maturity is just the opposite. As we grow in Christ, we are more aware of our need of Him. As we draw closer to Christ and He reveals more of our sin to us, we are more keenly aware of our utter dependence on Him. For apart from Him “we can do nothing.” (John 15:5)