(This post was originally published on the Baptist Convention of New England’s blog on January 28, 2019. You can find it here.)
Go-getter. Independent. Fearless. Capable. In the American economy, these are titles worth striving for, and strive we do. We strive until our peace is shot-through with bullet holes, our families have learned to function without us, and our souls are withered and whimpering. “Arm yourselves!” is the new battle cry of the republic, and much of the church rushes to answer.
In the Kingdom’s upside-down economy, though, strength isn’t the highest virtue. Determination, competence, power—all these are shown up by dependence.
Does that thought make you squirm? Me too.
Leaning into our own inadequacy is every believer’s secret weapon. As Paul crowed against the logic of the world, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” Vulnerability isn’t meant to be a scarce commodity among the citizens of heaven. We don’t have to drag it up into our hearts as a last resort (after all of our best attempts at fixing, numbing, escaping, despairing, and learning have fallen short).
Instead, we remember the robe of belonging flung over us with joy, the sandals placed on our feet, the ring glittering on our hands, at the height and depths of our unworthiness. No fatted calf in this story—a lamb, the Lamb, slaughtered once and for all, freeing us to run to the Daddy we wouldn’t have known and asking for help with the confidence of a kid who’s sure she’s loved. Becoming like a child includes dropping our aversion to being seen as needy.
This has washed over me for the past few months, how often I rage against my utter incapability. 99% of me is allergic to the thought that I need. It longs to be right enough, good enough, powerful enough, enough enough on its own, to not depend on an outside source of rescue.
The other 1% of me is pure grace. It’s a foreign object in my skin, placed there by a loving Abba who thoroughly enjoys making mischief on the other 99% of this hot mess for my own good. It’s for His glory, this overhaul of His in me.
He tackles my self-sufficiency, lethal delusion that it is, and whispers He’s always always always enough. He opens my eyes to the enormous amount of time I spend forgetful of His existence and tucks His loving presence into the edges of my days. He covers that familiar sense of shame with the grace I can’t outrun. I find an ax in my grip and a hand on my shoulder, squeezing comfort and courage into my veins. With my Daddy’s arms around me, we knock down the high place of my needing to not need. It hurts, and it is sweaty work, but hope bubbles up with every blow to my ramshackle refuge.
And then, as Nichole Nordeman sings in “The Unmaking,” “sitting in the rubble, I can see the stars.” Those galaxies spoken by a puff of breath, spinning God’s glory beyond what I can imagine, they testify to the goodness and might of this Father bent on favoring His kids. The vulnerability I’ve fought so long against settles against me like an old friend, and dependence is suddenly the best gift I didn’t know I needed.