a worship reflection by April Sutterfield
In third person, it sounds something like this: “He pulled himself up by the bootstraps to become the man he is today.”
In second person, it sounds something like this: “You don’t need them. Just do your thing and make magic happen.”
In first person, it sounds something like this: “Thank you for the offer, but I don’t need your help.”
See how easily they all roll off my tongue? It’s because I’m sure this is NOT the first time I’ve said each of them. In fact, I’m sure I’m not the only one for whom self-sufficiency flows off the tongue like a gently rolling stream. It’s so…..natural. It’s as if we’re born with self-sufficiency in our DNA.
I think back to watching my own children grow and develop, and I see evidence of this very fact. After all, it was 8 years ago that Blythe announced to me that she no longer required my assistance in selecting her clothing. She was BARELY two years old and felt abundantly confident in her mastery of the skill. At two, self-sufficiency is endearing and encouraged. At 22 and 32 and 42 and 52 and so on…self-sufficiency–the–idea that “I can do it all”–looks different. The thought that you can do anything on your own looks naive at its best and like hubris at its worst.
Now don’t get me wrong here. You can achieve some things on your own. The past few weeks have shown us all just how simple it is for one person to change the world, but it hasn’t been positive. Right now, it seems the balance is a little weighted toward negativity when it comes to the individual achievement and its impact. We don’t have to watch a war unfold to know it’s actually pretty easy for one person to inflict some serious damage on another person. And we can just look at the history of colonialism to see that even what some may call “good” intentions, when uninformed by the wisdom of local knowledge and cultural experience, produces some pretty awful results. The road to hell is paved with good intentions as they say, and I would add that so many good intentions are cloaked in self-sufficiency.
So if self-sufficiency is a lie, what is the truth? The truth is Divine Reliance. Divine Reliance begins with realizing you don’t know because that’s when you’re most malleable for God. I feel very malleable for God right now because I am in a period of knowing I don’t know.
I don’t know if the lotion I put on everyday is going to give me cancer.
I don’t know how to stop Putin in Ukraine.
I don’t know how we’re going to stop climate change.
I don’t know whether I should wear a mask to the grocery store or not.
I don’t know how to give my children enough love to soothe their anxious hearts.
I don’t know how to look at someone and genuinely value them for who they are regardless of what they do or who they’re with or what they look like.
Pretty much all I know right now is that I don’t know.
And the second step has to involve having the humility to let God step in while you’re malleable. Most of the time this involves saying yes to help from God’s people. For me, it has looked like saying yes to prayer for my Mom in Cancer Companions; saying yes to Missy Carter caring for my babies in the Nursery so I can get a moment of peace in Church. It looks like flowers when I miscarried, a hike at Lake Nixon for Clem, and sharing the load of parenting with a village that includes Brittany Stilwell and Kasey Eller. The second step has to involve saying “I can’t do it all, and why would I want to?”
Now, unlike self-sufficiency, Divine Reliance does NOT roll from my tongue. In fact, the words feel very unnatural to me, but I know where I can find some examples.
The Bible shows us that Divine Reliance sounds something like this….
In first person, it sounds like Paul in 1 Corinthians: “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”
In second person, it sounds like David crying to God in Psalm 138: “Do not forsake the work of Your hands.”
In third person, I know this is crazy, but I think it may sound like the squish of Egyptian sandals in a sea bed that had been dry only minutes before.
You know, if given the choice, I would choose the Jews’ dry sandals of Divine Reliance over the Egyptian’s wet sandals of Self-Sufficiency any day. Wouldn’t you?