In honor of InDependence
This is 4th of July week, where we celebrate all things American. The American spirit is real and alive and something to be proud of. We wave our flags and shoot our fireworks and wear our colors. We eat watermelon. It is quintessential summer. We celebrate the 200-year old vision, grit, determination, and bravery of our forefathers. We’re American, and we adore our independence.
But, what I’ve learned over the last 16 years or so is a great upside down truth: independence leads to bondage. The more dependence and interdependence that I practice, the more free I actually am.
In February, I wrote about George Müller and his life of prayer. The post ended with this:
Over the next weeks, I’m going to tell you some stories. These are stories from my life and they are stories about prayer, about God’s remarkable provision, and about his guiding hand. I’m more and more convinced that we are given our experiences, not to hoard them—learning and growing only for ourselves—but to share them for the benefit of others. My hope is that you’ll be refreshed, encouraged, and maybe even astonished enough to try Him out with wherever you’re lacking. Maybe you’ll even find yourself satisfied in ways you never thought possible.
About five years ago, I found myself in the market for a sectional sofa. At the time, our TV room was a small little office room that’s off our kitchen. We had three pieces of furniture in the room: a sofa (with three cushions), a coffee table, and then a small TV cabinet. That’s all that could fit.
We regularly have a Family Movie Night, (last night’s was Disney’s Million Dollar Arm, which I highly recommend) and I started to notice a pattern: 4 bums in our family didn’t squeeze well onto a 3-bum sofa. One person ended up on the floor, and there was always an argument. Family Movie Night became, “Who Has the Most Grit to Stay on the Couch Night” and it wasn’t pretty. Sisters can be stubborn.
I was bemoaning this problem to friend of mine who happens to be a talented interior designer. She wisely suggested a solution: a sectional sofa will solve this problem. It’s a small room, but let the sofa basically fill the room and it will A) provide the bum space you need, and B) actually make your space look bigger. (On a side note: filling a small space with a big piece of furniture sounds dumb to me, but I see this same suggestion in every interior design magazine that I read, so it must be a thing.)
I’m on board. I’m all in on a sectional sofa to solve our family’s problems. Only, as it turns out, I’m fairly picky. And frankly, totally unable to afford the sofas that I want. It’s many thousands of dollars to get the kind of sofa I’d like. Many thousands more than I have for a sofa.
I tap in to my inner scout, and peruse discount furniture stores (those didn’t take me far—did I mention the picky factor?), and furniture trading websites, and consignment stores… you name it, I tried it. I came up empty because of budget every single time. To be fair, I use the word ‘budget’ loosely: it was basically zero dollars. And then I started the downward spiral of shame. The inner voice that whispers to me:
-If you were just more competent, this wouldn’t be a problem. You could just buy it, already.
-What kind of grown-up can’t afford to buy a new couch when they need one?
-This is ridiculous. Just buy it and pay for it later.
And this is the bondage of independence: it all depends on me. If I worked harder, If I were smarter, If I had more money, If I, If I, If I… In the “If I Economy,” I never measure up. I always fall short. I find myself empty-handed and ungrateful.
I started praying about the sofa. I really did. One thing I’ve learned about God through my journey is that He meets me where I’m at. So, I’ve learned to say: I’m in an unhealthy place. I’m feeling sorry for myself. Will you help me?
And I’ve also learned to ask, Will you help me to either be content with the sofa I have, or show up and get me a great deal on a sofa?
Or even, like Mary says at the wedding in Cana, We have no more wine!, which is just a cry for help in something that, while important, is non-essential. We have no more wine has become my way of asking for an out-of-the-box solution. It’s saying, “I think I know what I need, but I’m not going to tell you how to provide it. And maybe I don’t even need it—you decide.”
To say, We have no more wine is to plead, trust, and depend on someone else to provide.
A few months go by. One day, a favorite client breezes into the studio with an unusual job request. I listen, and then pass. Yes, I can do it, but it will be more laborious than something I want to take on right now. Thanks for thinking of me. She pushes back. I suggest a few other places she might consider. She leaves.
Two days later, she comes back. She really, really wants us to do this job. How can she convince me to do it?
I forgot to mention: She and her husband own a beautiful furniture store.
She spoke with her husband last night and he told her to ask if I might be interested in a trade. Do I need any furniture?
Hmmmmm. Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I do.
This sofa wouldn’t have happened without my interior designer friend’s suggestion and it wouldn’t have happened without my client’s persistence and willing spirit. This is the beauty of interdependence: when we lean on one another, allow others to help us, and share our gifts and talents with those around us, everyone flourishes.
My family loves our sectional. We now have five bums in our crew, and everyone has bum space aplenty. It’s still in prime condition. It also has a pull-out bed, so we have a place for guests to sleep when we need it. And this sofa: it wasn’t a cast-off. It wasn’t from a garage sale. It was a brand new, luxurious, better–than-I ever-dreamed-possible sofa. It makes me think of Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…”
Dependence and interdependence… this is the freeing, healthy, benevolent rhythm of life. It’s the gospel in community. I can’t do it. I need someone bigger than me. No man is an island: I need people around me to help with this walk. I need their gifts and they need mine.
This week, as we celebrate our country’s independence, I hope that you’ll reflect on dependence and interdependence—the very things that breathe life into your life. If you find yourself desperately trying to do it yourself, again, and failing, again… may I suggest that you turn it upward. Practice dependence on someone greater than yourself. I guarantee that He’ll meet you where you’re at, and give you answers that are far beyond your expectations.