I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T, do you know what that means?
In one word, that’s me. However this past year has revealed to me more than ever my own lack of self-sufficiency and need for others.
As I was reading The Insanity of Obedience by Nik Ripken, I was struck by one part which described the author’s interviews of Muslim Background Believers in regards to a certain missionary. He asked several different ones, “What makes a good missionary?” None were able to answer the question yet all said the same name of a missionary they loved. When pressed to explain why they loved him so much, they said “because he needs us. The others don’t.”
I think of how during my internship in Guam I was reliant on others for assistance getting groceries, seeing beautiful sights that were further than my little bike could take me, and for any sort of social life. How thankful I was to all of those who went of their way for me!
Here in China my apparent need has been even greater. Sometimes I feel like a two-year-old trapped in the body of an adult. Basic tasks like getting groceries, going to the bank, ordering food, and doing online shopping all require help. Yet as one Chinese student said who has given so much time to all of the American teachers, “It feels good being needed. Chinese people don’t need me but you do.”
Ultimately, these needs reflect my much greater need for Christ every day, every hour, every minute. Could I have survived in Guam and now in China without those people that so graciously helped me? Yes. But, oh what sweet blessings I would miss and how much extra trouble I would bear. Can I survive on small doses of Jesus? Yes. But like the old hymn says, “Oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” Why wander in the wilderness like the Israelites surviving on manna yet never completely satisfied when we have a sweet Savior, a man of sorrows, who has died so we might daily walk in a new life with Him?
As my need is ever before me, I am reminded of God’s words to the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:8, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
As humans we were never created to be independent, self-reliant, self-sufficient creatures. That is a result of the fall. We were created to have needs, or rather a need for the One who made us. A need for the rest and satisfaction that can only come from total reliance and humble dependence on our Savior and His finished work. Our needs are designed to point us to Him, the only one who can fully sustain and satisfy. They are meant to demonstrate that no good can come apart from God because as branches dependent upon upon His vine for nourishment we “can do nothing” without Him (John 15:5) and “power is perfected in weaknesses.” Our great need is meant as a way to glorify our greater God as we humbly admit our weakness and seek Him. As children of God, what a privilege it is to stand ransomed and redeemed before our Father, made righteous by Jesus’ blood giving all praise and glory to Him whose hands knit us together!
Along with my realization of my need for others and Jesus this year, I have also come to see that the amount of service for the Lord is dependent upon the amount of surrender to the Lord. He can only use what is freely given back to Him, the giver of all good gifts. Surrender is daily and it is unconditional. Like cliff jumping or sky diving, the hardest part is the initial letting go.
I must confess that I strongly dislike trust falls- an activity where you stand on object, a group of people link arms behind you and you fall back with straight legs into their arms. Nearly every time I fail to fall. It’s not because I think that the people who are supposed to catch me aren’t there. Even though I can’t see them, I fully believe that they are behind me. It’s not because I don’t believe they have the strength to catch me. I know they can. Rather it is my natural instinct to trust no one but myself that prevents me every time from falling.
My relationship with my heavenly Father has been like my experience with trust falls. As with trust falls, I don’t struggle with it because I doubt the Lord’s presence or His strength. Rather it is my natural, Adam-like, sinful self that rebels against trusting Him completely. Paul writes in Romans 7:18-19, “For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do.”
My desire to trust God fully in order to fully surrender and walk in obedience is there, yet it rages with my natural flesh. Like Paul, I have cried out, “What a wretched [woman] I am!” How I want to trust and surrender and yet at the last second my natural self jumps in preventing me from doing the very thing I desire.
I have so very much to learn but this year has taught me a lot.
I have prayed to learn how to walk humbly with the Lord and have been taught that learning to walk in the way of true humility does not come with a gentle touch but with a hot, searing knife.
In fear and trembling I have approached our King and asked Him to teach me to listen to Him and like Elijah, I have learned that the Lord comes in a “soft whisper,” not the the mighty wind or the earthquake or the fire that I so dreaded (1 Kings 19:11-12).
I have learned that if I am to be able to sing praises to my King from the darkest days in the midst of storms and affliction and grief and sorrow, my relationship with Him and delight in Him cannot be rooted in the gifts He gives me but in Himself, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.
This has been a year of tears mixed with laughter. A year of pain intermingled with joy raining down.
This year the frantic, frenzy rush of my college days has been replaced by unusual stillness. The silence and solitude that once seemed so lonely and barren has now become beautiful. As with any intimate human relationship, I am growing to see how the most precious, intimate times with my Bridegroom happen behind closed doors where none but myself and Him can be present.
I am reminded that being a Christian is not about what we do but about who we are. We are the Bride of Christ. We are His love and His desire. May our lives reflect the beauty of this relationship!
Here’s to 2016: a year to run with reckless abandon after my Savior and to spend in careful preparation for the testing that is sure to come.