I am fiercely independent. To a fault. In fact, my dad regularly reminds me that “I do it myself” was one of my first (and favorite!) childhood phrases.
Independence rears its head in all sorts of forms. We bury problems and think we can best deal with them ourselves. We don’t want to burden a friend with a worry that we’re carrying. We’re feeling anxious or depressed and think that we should be able to kick it ourselves. We just don’t want to bother anyone with our junk.
And of course, we’ve been taught to hand over our cares to God. “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” ~ I Peter 5:7 Ahhh… So the ultra-spiritual thing to do is to give our worries, fears, and cares to God and then consider them handled, right?
Yes, handing those things over to God is important. He truly cares for our needs — and will meet them. But God didn’t design us to be loners. As I look back over my own rough patches, I see how He has used the encouragement and experiences of other people to meet my needs.
Being off my feet for the past five weeks has made me reevaluate my self-sufficiency. Not being able to do something as simple as getting myself a glass of water has rocked my independence. Fortunately, my family and friends have been right there the whole time, offering help, often before I realized I needed it. From cooking meals to doing laundry to keeping me company, people have expressed a genuine desire to offer a hand. I’m getting better at not only accepting their help, but even asking for it.
My downtime has affected more than my attitude about doing things for myself. It’s also shown me that successfully dealing with life means that I need to lose my independent streak in other areas.
Unfortunately, when I wall myself off from others (insisting that I can handle things on my own), I miss the unique perspective that other people have to offer. My independence leads to isolation. Isolation opens wide the door for spiritual attack. Who does the Enemy pick on? Someone surrounded with reinforcements? Or someone off by themselves? It’s plain to see who the easy target is.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
These past few weeks, I’ve shed my share of tears over things I haven’t been able to do. I’ve been frustrated, angry, and discouraged. It wasn’t until I shared those feelings with other people that I was able to process them and view them through a different set of eyes. It’s amazing how encouraging inviting someone else into my space can be. It made me view the situation in a completely different way. Independence doesn’t allow for that, but Together does.
I’ve also been on the other side of the story. I’ve watched friends shy away from sharing burdens. I’ve seen them struggling to keep their heads above water emotionally. I’ve seen the hurt in their eyes. I want to grab them and shake them while hugging them and reminding them that we’re in this together. I want to be the one to offer an encouraging word, a smile, a gentle reminder that things are going to get better. That’s what Together is all about.
God places us in community to draw on each other’s strengths. Where I’m weak, my friend may be strong. Where she is weak, I can offer encouragement and support. There’s strength and power in Together. But Together takes laying aside our pride and the idea that we can do it all ourselves. Humbling? Maybe. But power of Together is so much more freeing than being merely independent.