A short time ago, Americans were privileged to celebrate the 4th of July… Independence Day… gathering with friends and/or family, marking our political and cultural departure from Great Britain as colonies, forswearing ever again to live as part of a National Church. For many Christians, this weekend has not only been about patriotism and fireworks, but also the tremendous (and rare, in our world) opportunity we have to worship God according to our conscience, rather than according to political laws and domination by a majority.
We, as citizens, are “Independent”. And right here right now we celebrate “Independence Day”. And that’s a GOOD thing, right?
Well… yeah… right… when we mean it as the Founding Fathers did. When we mean political, economic, religious independence from bondage to an unbalanced structure of control and exploitation. But, let me ask you this, Gentle Reader… Can you imagine such a thing as “bad independence”? “Too much independence”?
Independence can be taken to mean “freedom”, “manumission”, and “release from forced bondage”. That, unquestionably, is a good thing. That is what we celebrate on July 4th as our Independence Day, or our Freedom Day. I sometimes think “Freedom” is the better word for that holiday, as the word Freedom does not imply so strong a “disconnection” from others. We can readily see “freedom” as the “right of choice” to determine our actions, our alliances, our associations, our relationships.
“Independence”, on the other hand, carries with it an implication of “disconnectedness”, of “aloneness”, of what some people call “alienation”.
*I* for one, am NOT “independent”. I am totally, cheerfully, and joyously dependent in every possible way on my Beloved Lord and His grace. I am further “mutually dependent” with countless others of my brethren around me in Kingdom Service, and as a part of the humanity of creation itself. See what I mean? I am absolutely and totally “FREE”, that is I alone make my choices and carry the responsibility for them. I choose my connections, relationships, alliances. But in making those choices, I become dependent on others, as they depend on me, and I become accountable to them. By NO means, am I the slightest bit “Independent”.
I spend most of my time involved in “counseling”, in the creation of a sacred space between myself and a person in pain, such that the Holy Spirit can reach through our interpersonal space and bring healing to a wounded heart. Sometimes, my role is to speak words into that space. Often, it is not. Often my role is simply to listen… to the person, to the Spirit, listen as the person hears and affirms what they discover.
Almost without exception, a client finds him or herself in my office because, without really knowing how it happened, they have become “independent”. They have become disconnected from anyone or anything that speaks life into their hearts. Their life may be enmeshed in a gaggle of relationships, but there is no trust, no intimacy, no transparency, no mutual edification or real accountability.
Suicide is now the third leading cause of death in the United States. It is the second leading cause in this state. Among youth, aged 10 to 25, suicide is the Number One leading cause of death in this county. That is tragic beyond words.
The single most profound factor that has been isolated by scientists studying the circumstances of suicide and the decision to take one’s own life is….
[insert drum roll here]…
A personal sense of isolation and alienation.
That is, in other words, “Independence”.
Jesus’ strongest command was (is)… “that ye love one another”. (cf John 13:34-35)
That carries with it the corollary that we allow ourselves to be loved. “Freedom” is the choice to love, relate, and be loved by others… to choose light over darkness, not because we MUST, but because we MAY! The Enemy, from the beginning, has been about separation, boundaries, guilt, gaps, alienation and distancing of loving relationships.
Don’t let the enemy have his way, follow Jesus’ command instead. Tear down walls and boundaries, love and be loved. Don’t let isolation or alienation, loneliness, and cutoffs poison either your own life or the lives of others.
Be Free, Gentle Reader! Not Independent!
Blessings and grace to thee — Little Monk