Radical dependence is something I struggle with. I suspect I am not alone. So often I start my day with a plan in mind and I have laid out a strategy for the day. How I am going to approach a particular meeting and what I intend to do with a particular situation. On the days I am self-aware enough to reflect on my shortcomings, I devise a plan on how to become a better person. So often I inform God about my plans after I have made them, asking Him to bless my plans. I have my short, medium and long plans for my life and when things don’t go according to my plans I am frustrated. “God, why didn’t life work out the way I planned?” is a familiar refrain. Seldom do I stop and consider what God’s plan for my life is and how it might differ from mine. It is a harrowing thought but God’s plan for my life is usually different from my plan for my life. Radical dependence means I discard my plans and seek God’s face to understand His plan for me. It means I trust that His plan is better than mine and while I may not see the whole picture, the very fact that God is in it is all I need. This holds true when things are going awry by my estimation.
David is one of the heroes of the Bible. A flawed man like all of us. He had murder and adultery on his wrap sheet! But yet, God chose to name Himself after David. Jesus is called the Son of David numerous times in the New Testament, an amazing compliment to the relationship David had with God. He was a man after God’s heart. Reading through the biblical account of the life of David, one of the things that stand out is how often it is said “…David inquired of The Lord…”. He wanted to ensure He was following God, rather than informing God after he had made a decision. He was always keen to know how God wanted Him to approach a given situation. How different his approach is from mine when I seek to inform God of my plans rather than seek to follow God’s plan for me. The truth is God’s overarching plan for me is to mould me into the image of His Son. Part of that process includes removing what is in me that doesn’t conform to Jesus. He does so by using the people and circumstances in my life. He calls me to radical dependence on Him, to trust His plan for my life by submitting myself to the leadership of His Holy Spirit. He also calls me to treat others with love and compassion, just as He treats me and to allow others to show me love and compassion.
I was reading about Christianity and the church. The author made a comparison between the early church and the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) fellowship. At first, I was taken aback by the comparison but the more I read and hear about the AA, the more I understand the comparison. Founded with a Christian ethos, its foundations were based on its members being radically dependent on God and the compassionate support of each other to stay sober. A member doesn’t describe himself or herself as someone who has beat alcoholism, rather he or she counts how long it’s been since their last drink. Temptation is never too far away, but its members can rely on each other’s support to get through the hard times. The underlying premise is simple: God can empower us to overcome our demons if we surrender to Him but it is not an overnight process, and we need each other’s support along the way.
The ethos of the AA models for me what church ought to be like. We all have our battles – the sins we struggle with. It may be alcohol, pornography, lust, unforgiveness, anger, jealousy, etc. We never beat sin to the point where we are no longer tempted, rather we rely on God’s grace and the support and prayers of each other to overcome the temptations when they arise. Too often in today’s church, we can sometimes act as though we have it all together. If you are someone who is fighting one of these battles, you could be forgiven if you thought walking into a church you were the odd one out. In church, we tend to present the best version of ourselves. Often as Christians, the last place we would open up is in church. We wouldn’t want our fellow Christians to see us vulnerable. Sadly, too often we offer judgement rather than compassion to each other’s sins. We carry a façade of serenity and while underneath we are struggling. As a result, we fail to form close enough relationships to offer or receive the love and compassion we all need.
Jesus tells us quite simply, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” [John 15:5 NIV] emphasising the need for radical dependence but He also told us to “…wash each other’s feet” [John 13:14 NIV] emphasising our need for each other’s love and compassionate support. I see a practical link between radical dependence on God and my reliance on others as well as making myself available to them. If I am pre-occupied with myself and my plans, I am buried in the stress and anxiety that comes with the futile task of being the captain of my life. There is fundamentally no room for others. I am not available to support them and I am too self-absorbed to allow others to be there for me. It is impossible to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ if you are self-centred.
We are not in church because we are perfect and have it all together. We are there for the very opposite reason. For anyone outside looking in at Christians, we are not perfect. In fact, we are just as flawed. The only difference is that we have hopefully acknowledged our sorry state before God and accepted His gift of love, acceptance and adoption into His Family. He makes the same offer to you today.