Just a few weeks ago, the United States celebrated its 240th Independence Day. In between indulging in savory grilled fare and the crackle of fireworks, I started to think about when I first felt the sensation of independence. The first recollection to stir in my memory was that of baking my first batch of cookies…all by myself. I know, I know…it’s not exactly groundbreaking, but for a 7 year-old, being able to use the “big oven” (as opposed to my Easy Bake) was a monumental moment. I remember sifting the flour by hand into a large yellow, porcelain mixing bowl. I remember the distinctive crack sound as I opened the eggs and poured their gooey, yellow centers on top of the mound of powder white flour. I can remember the intoxicating smell as I added the sugar, vanilla extract, and chocolate chips. I can recall the vibration of the hand mixer as it churned the segregated ingredients into a smooth, blended dough. And I can remember the heat of the oven caressing my face when I opened the black-handled door and watched the tray of delectable, round delights slip inside. And lastly, I remember sinking my teeth into the warm sweetness, the fruits of my labor, and relishing in the demonstration of my “big girl” independence. What a wonderful memory! Too bad it’s not what actually happened.
You see, once the nostalgic trance wore off so did the illusion of independence. I began to remember the reality of that epic occasion with much more accuracy. I did sift flour into the bowl. But my hand fatigued after about a ¼ cup of flour. My mom finished the remaining 2 cups. I did crack open an egg and add it to the bowl. But then my mom spent 5 minutes fishing out the shell debris. She finished adding the remaining eggs. I did pour in the sugar, vanilla extract, and chocolate chips. But I only poured in what my mom had already measured out and only when she told me it was time for each ingredient to be added. Now, I did use the mixer. But my mom’s hand was on top of mine the entire time, directing how to work the appliance over the mounds of dough. And I did open the oven door. But my mom actually handled transporting the tray in and out of the hot oven. And if we want to get technical, it was mom who supplied the ingredients and paid for the electricity to support the entire endeavor. So who actually made the cookies? Ok…it was my mom. I was just present and actively participating in her work.
Isn’t it funny how I remembered this occasion as being something I accomplished all by myself when nothing could be further from the truth? It reminds me of something I learned from a couple of scriptures:
1 Corinthians 3:16
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”
“for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
When I consider everything I have ever accomplished, every achievement, every attained goal, I realize none of it could have been done independently because I am not an independent being. As a Christian, I have received a great gift; the Holy Spirit lives inside of me. This doesn’t just mean existing in me; the Spirit is actively living out God’s will in and through me. This dependent relationship with the Spirit goes beyond good work. Even my will/desire to do anything worthwhile is a function of His residency in me. And if we want to get technical, every molecule and strand of DNA in my being is being held together and out into motion by God. So I repeat, I can’t do anything independently because I am not an independent being.
I have viewed my dependent relationship with the Spirit in two ways. I used to think of the Holy Spirit as a puppeteer, pulling my strings to make me move and dance on demand. But this view was full of my underlying resentment for the loss of independence (even if it was just an illusion). As I’ve matured, or rather the Spirit has matured me, I now see that it’s more like I am an instrument in the hands of the Great Musician who is composing a song of praise through my life. Just like an instrument, I am dependent on the Spirit to know my design and to keep me “in tune” so that my life can be a sweet sound in the ear of God. My job is to simply be present and actively participating in the Spirit’s work.
What’s the music of your life right now? Is it the broken rhythm of independence or the harmonic melody of dependency on the Spirit? What makes dependency a “bad word” to so many people?
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