In the past, I’ve taken lots of pride in being a highly independent person. As any wise person knows, pride goes before a fall, both literally & metaphorically. So when I’ve thought that being independent was a strength, I’m growing to appreciate that it can also be a weakness. I’m learning that independence becomes a weakness when I separate myself from people, when I don’t ask for help, when I don’t allow others to contribute in teamwork and improvements. Unfortunately, I’ve had to fall down, fail and face inadequacy to accept the reality that my independence isn’t a strength as much as it can be a weakness for me.
I’m being vulnerable with this lesson because there’s a good chance that you might have a few things that you consider to be strengths. It’s possible that these perceived strengths could be weaknesses for you, maybe. Consider some examples:
Is external beauty a strength at the expense of cultivating interior beauty? Of course these don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but it’s a good question to consider in both ways of interior & exterior beauty.
Is dependence a strength when cultivating one’s internal fortitude is dismissed?
Is discipline a strength when it accentuates achievement at the expense of intimacy or people connection?
Is Bible knowledge or proper theology a strength without God’s love to soften our words, actions and attitudes?
Sometimes we can lean on our strengths so much that they can become weaknesses without realizing it! Let’s keep Paul’s words about boasting in weakness from 2 Corinthians 11:30 as a central theme in our daily living! “If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.”
I love America! I love our heritage, roots and history. I love the way we celebrate our nation on this day with hot dogs, barbecues, baseball, fireworks, watermelon, grilling, swimming and the stars and stripes. We live in a wonderful country!
I know this because I am extremely fortunate to get to travel around the world and I see nations that are very different than ours. I go to nations where the absence of freedom is normal. I visit nations where it can be dangerous to express a dissident opinion. I visit regions where being a woman is a burden of survival in the most depolorable conditions.
We live in a very great nation and today we celebrate freedom, one of the core values on which our nation was founded. May we also recognize that freedom is tethered to responsibility. Without maintinaing responsibility, our freedoms will erode and become an elusive memory. We are a great nation today because of the sacrifices made in the past. This makes me pause to consider if we are making sacrifices today that will keep us great in the future.
Let’s be sure that we continue to pray for America 🙂
Our culture applauds strength & independence and these are good things to have – they can serve us well in lots of different ways. The tricky part for us humans is that we tend to struggle with the practice of balance. For some of us, independence & strength are the fortress in which we live, sometimes at the expense of fellowship with others and experiencing the amazing and indescribable power and wisdom of God. I’ve made it my goal to know & be close to God. With this decision, I get to adventure through various weaknesses in my life so that I can begin to experience God’s immense but gentle strength, God’s tenacious and faithful love, along with God’s wisdom that far exceeds my puny mental gyrations. In the end, I’ll take God’s strength, fellowship & communion anytime – it is far superior to any comfort from my own strength or independence. God’s ways are higher than my ways 🙂
Happy Freedom Day! Here’s an interesting experience I had that was an eye-opener: During the Cold War, I went on a Summer missions trip to Eastern Europe & it was still heavily under communist control. Before we crossed from West Germany into the Eastern Bloc, we went through all of our luggage to make sure that we didn’t have any kind of “contraband” that would be considered anti-communist. At the time, I was taking a correspondence course on US History & my leadership informed me that I wouldn’t be able to take my text nor course work with me because it presented a different view of history than what was politically acceptable in Communist nations. Of course this threw me for a loop because I had to hurry up, finish everything & mail it back to the States. This experience gave me some unique insight into the significance & power of freedom that we celebrate in the US every year on the 4th of July.
Here’s another thought about freedom: everyday we get to celebrate freedom in our choices & decisions. Consider what Viktor Frankl had to say about freedom: Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. Viktor Frankl was a concentration camp survivor. His thoughts about freedom can be very insightful – we carry with us everyday the freedom to chose our actions & attitudes 🙂
I’ve been kind of wrestling w God on a few items that might also be familiar to you. There are times when it seems like God is moving me in a certain direction or telling me to do something, which is all groovy, except for a “minor” detail. It often seems to me that whatever God tells me to do, it almost always seems impossible in my natural thinking, so I can often find myself saying, “I can’t do that” – thinking that I don’t have the ability, brains, stamina, etc for such a task.
When I was was talking w God about this recently, it seemed like He wasn’t surprised by my inability but was belong me to understand that any assignment that He gives me will always require His help. And what I fully embrace is that when I try to do things without God’s help, it often doesn’t turn out very well, in contrast to when I include God’s help. Things are always better when I include God rather than try to do stuff without His help 🙂
Among other things, Fall tends to remind me of harvest & harvest is the results of planting, watering & growing. In this Fall season of harvest, I’m noticing some interesting harvests in my life, that are coming as a result of making choices to change & grow (not always the easiest decisions).
Here’s some transparency that I talked about with my mom this morn: last year when I came back from Angola, I had a SERIOUSLY DIFFICULT time recovering in my heart from that trip. Truthfully, that trip permanently changed me in a good way, but the process of that change was extremely harsh. In contrast, my recovery from our Angola trip last month hasn’t been nearly as brutal as it was last year. Here’s something that I think is a key difference for me between these trips: last year when I came home, in many ways I tried to process the trip by myself & barely talked w anyone about it on a heartfelt level. In contrast, this year, I’m way more open (by contrast) to talk about the trip, my experiences, feelings & observations. I find myself being less independent than I was last year & it feels like I’m processing the trip in more healthy & constructive ways.
So I find myself growing in surprising ways – being less independent & more interactive. And the fruit or harvest of this growing feels more healthy & less hurtful. While independence can be good, strong & powerful, there’s also a toxic side that can be a blindspot of lethal magnitude. Perhaps the operative word would be “inter-dependent” 🙂
My friend, let’s always chose the growing path because the harvests are worth the cultivation & process