In recent history we have conceived and given birth to a form of neo-independence. There was a time when we were independent yet still united. Today we no longer stand united. Today we live in isolation. We do not allow anyone or anything to penetrate our souls. To do so would be a sign of weakness, a sign of vulnerability. Any sign of vulnerability threatens our treasured independence. Finding dependence upon anything is a sign of weakness; a sign of worthlessness; a sign of frailty. And if there is one thing we are taught in this country it is that we are not to be weak. We are the land of freedom and independence. We are taught the strong survive and the weak die. Strength is found in our independence. We chose not to share our independence and it pushes us into deeper isolation. The spirit to stand strong in our independence has caused personal relationships in this country to crumble.
This generation has been taught to rely on anyone or anything other than the self will result in the loss of self—the greatest sign of incompetency and human weakness. We have been taught to rely on another will result in the surrender of power and strength causing ourselves to succumb to the abuse and manipulation of another—the only thing that can come from any form of dependence is deep hurt and mistrust—thus no one can be trusted. Therefore we do all that we can to cling tight to the self because the self is the only thing that is truly completely ours. In protecting the self we believe: I am strong, I will succeed, and I am capable to achieve anything all on my own.
The obsession with our independence and isolation has resulted in the complete lack of commitment. Sure we will be committed to something as long as it benefits us, but as soon as the commitment poses a threat to our independence we chose to drop the commitment, which is in essence the lack of any true commitment. The lack of commitment has become a societal norm. Plans today are now mutually understood as tentative and subject to change until the very moment of the event. If something better presents itself we send a text message, email, or phone them on their cell to explain why we cannot make it. We bail on others and others bail on us. Everything is temporary so why would we want to commit to anything truly—especially when we have no idea what new and better opportunity might be right around the corner—to say yes to one thing is to say no to another. Thus in an effort to maintain our independence we put off decisions or reply with, ‘maybe.’ Commitment threatens our independence and the self.
Surprisingly the lack of commitment has lead to the increase of physical intimacy. At a time there was a strong correlation between emotional vulnerability and physical intimacy thus with the rise of independence and isolation we would expect physical intimacy to be in decline yet this is not the case. We have managed to redefine physical intimacy to mean exactly that, ‘physical intimacy’. We have broken the bond between the emotional and the physical. In doing so we have become quick to bare our bodies well before baring our souls. Now two or more strangers can enjoy physical intimacy while maintaining their independence and isolation free from commitment. With this new kind of physical intimacy there is nothing shared; nothing exchanged—save the experience itself—and each is able to enjoy the pleasure the other brings without threatening one’s independence. Finally this has brought about the destruction of personal narrative in our culture. When nothing is shared and nothing is worth sharing then our story no longer matters—we lose all relevance to the world around us.
The ways in which personal relationships manifest in a society often represent how a society understands its relationship with God. Over time our spirit of neo-individualism and isolation has yielded a lack of dependence upon God. In many ways we believe we have risen to the heights of the gods themselves. In doing so we have succumbed to the temptation that has haunted man from the very beginning: ‘surely you will not die! For when you eat of it your eyes will be open and you will be like God.’ In our assent to personal deification we have forgotten that we were created to be a ‘little lower than God,’ and that God ‘will not contend with man forever.’ Yet these statements of truth no longer hold any significant meaning because we are no longer committed to God and His purposes. It is only when we want something from God do we turn to Him—once we get what we want we quickly forget about Him or if He doesn’t come through for us we blame Him for all of the pain in our lives. In any case the narrative of God is lost rendering God irrelevant.
In an attempt to keep the narrative of God relevant the church has taught it is our personal individual relationship with Jesus Christ is what matters most. Thus those of us in the church at the time have taken our ‘personal’ relationship with Jesus in one hand and our independence in the other and walked out the doors. The Bible no longer has any intrinsic meaning—the meaning of the text now comes from the reader. We use the text to justify our views—Bible study has turned into a therapeutic place where everyone explains what the passage means to them. For those who have retreated deeper into isolation and have forsaken formal religious community Biblical interpretation becomes a form of self-validation free from any form of accountability. Finally there are those who have abandoned the text completely creating for themselves a Jesus who ministers to their independent needs.
In this we have lost the true purpose of faith—the true purpose of life: to fully know and be known by God. In forsaking our true purpose we forsake what it means to truly love and be loved. We must return to our original purpose if we are to have any hope of destroying the spirit of independence living inside each of us. The belief that independence is the ultimate sign of strength is nothing less than the great lie of our age. The true sign of strength is actually found in dependence—first upon God and second upon each other.
The spirit of dependence is a spirit of surrender and acceptance. When we are dependent we surrender ourselves to the thing in which we find ourselves dependent upon—in doing so we also open ourselves to receive from the thing we are dependent upon. To be dependent requires us to be placed in a vulnerable position—we no longer find ourselves in control. This is why it is so important we find ourselves dependent upon God. When we become dependent upon things other than God is when we find ourselves subject to abuse and mistrust. Become dependent upon what others think of us—we will die trying to please everyone. Become dependent upon drugs—we will die using. Become dependent upon an abusive relationship—we will die unsatisfied. Dependence is always deadly when we become dependent upon those holding on to the spirit of independence. But when we become dependent upon God—Instead of abuse, judgment, or death—we receive grace, love and life.
Now whenever we discuss the concepts of grace, love, and life they are often times become romanticized to the point of rainbows, unicorns, and cotton-candy—the reality couldn’t be further. There is nothing easy when it comes administering grace. There is nothing easy about love—choosing to forsake the self to serve another to the point of death. Yet it is by grace and love we experience life. We were bought with a price—Jesus dead on a cross. There is no greater love than this: for a man to give up his life for a friend. Love will always require the sacrifice of the self. For those who choose to lose their life will find it—while those who hold on to it will lose it. Those who become dependent upon God will find life while those who maintain their independence will lose it.
Dependency upon God requires us to make a personal sacrifice of the self to Him—through sacrifice we become invested in purposes of God. Sacrifice will always yield investment and investment will always yield a level of commitment—the greater the sacrifice the greater the investment the greater the commitment. The level in which we are willing to be vulnerable will be the measure in which we are capable of giving and receiving love. It is a measure of our ability to sacrifice, invest and commit to the relationship. Those who are dependent upon other substances other than God go to great lengths committing grave sacrifices to maintain their destructive behavior—how much more should we sacrifice to maintain our dependence upon God?
In our dependence upon God the narrative of God is restored. His story becomes so significant that it becomes the central philosophy in which we base all of our decisions. What was once irrelevant now possesses a relevance that can be applied in any and every faucet and experience of our life. Once we have come to know the love and grace God chooses each day to pour out upon us and what it cost Him we will enter into a deep intimacy with Him—an intimacy not where we ask what God can do for us, rather where we find ourselves asking what can we do for God because of what He has, is, and will continue to do for us. It is an intimacy where life can be shared. It is an intimacy where both God and us can collectively share in both our joys and sufferings in this life. It is through this intimacy we are encouraged to share our personal narrative not only with God but with others—it becomes our testimony.
If we are to truly return to being fully dependent upon God we must also become inter-dependent upon His people. We are called the body of Christ for a reason—just like a body no single part can function properly completely on its own. Just as the body is inter-dependence upon its various systems to function properly we too must become inter-dependent upon one another yet again. God calls this community of inter-dependency the church. Thus if we are to truly put to death the spirit of independence and isolation in our world we must return back to the church willing to become a part of the inter-dependent body of Christ.
The way we do this is by knowing our testimony and personal gifts from God. When we choose to serve the LORD with our gifts the church will begin to thrive. The problem is far too many people a choosing not to serve the LORD with their gifts. They allow fear, apathy, or independence to get in the way of sharing their gift with others. This causes others to serve outside of their God given gifts in an attempt to fill in the breaks found in the body. Yet if everyone just served out of their gifts then we would experience the blessing of a whole church body. In knowing our personal gifts and knowing the gifts of others we no longer have to go it alone. If everyone is serving within their gift set and when we are approached to do something outside our gift set instead of trying to bridge the gap with our own independence we are able to suggest another who would be far better suited to accomplish the task at hand.
In choosing to live in the inter-dependent body of Christ we are acknowledging that everyone has something to share—that everyone posses great value. In this inter-dependent community people are welcomed to be vulnerable, they are encouraged to grow in intimacy with one another, and because of this they grow to become greatly committed to one another. When we choose to live dependent lives—first upon God and second upon each other—our splintered and fragmented life is transformed into a life of deep interconnectedness.
The spirit of independence and isolation has become nothing less than one of the greatest lies of this generation. It is a spirit that leads us to living fractioned and dysfunctional lives. It is a spirit that claims strength by promoting the self above all else—while it might promise life it will eventually lead to death. And while the spirit of dependence has been presented as a spirit of dysfunctionality and weakness it is a spirit that leads to humility and life. It is a spirit who motto is ‘when I am weak, I am strong’—not because of my independent strength but because of the strength of LORD whom I am dependent upon. So what will it be? Will we hold tight to our independence? Or will we surrender our independence becoming dependence upon the LORD? Will we chose life or death? The decision is completely yours.
In an attempt to understand the spirit of independence in our generation I chose to look at our culture and its fascination with indecency at the macro level. Thus I tried to stay away from specific examples, for our sprit independence is manifested in far too many subtle ways on the micro world. Therefore we must understand that the spirit of independence is far more nuanced than how it was presented in the article. The reality of our spirit of independence is it applies to our lives on the micro level would be better understood as a scale. The degree in which we allow independence to rule our lives varies for each individual. Thus it must also be understood the severity of the linear consequences—of independence—I presented will also vary per individual. Finally the series of consequences of independence presented here are only but a few—in which I found most significant for the purposes of this article.
The goal of this article is to discuss the significant consequences of our current lifestyle of independence that permeates our existence. It is a lifestyle I believe every reader will find relevant and applicable to life. I know I allow my own spirit of independence to rule over me in the ways mentioned in the article. Second the goal is to make aware how the Church has been affected by and has even actively contributed to the spirit of personal independence. My hope is that through this article we will asses our own level of independence and ponder the possible consequences resulting in our lives and the lives around us because of our independence. My hope is that we might change the way we think about what it means to be strong and what it means to be weak. My hope is that we might return to the LORD. My hope is that we might return to each other. My hope is that we might begin to actively seek out community, vulnerability, intimacy, connectedness, and life. My hope is that we might begin to share our lives with one another. My hope is that we will share in each other’s joys and sufferings. My hope is that we will have hope—hope in God’s narrative; hope in our narrative. Finally my hope is that in doing this we might glorify God—that because of this we might desire to fully know and be known by Him.