“Dad, I went potty, all by myself!” Those are the words of my three-year-old and youngest son as he walked out from the bathroom at our house. He was thrilled that he was just like his big brothers in terms of his bathroom abilities. It was almost like he had been waiting for this moment, forever. It was finally here. He went potty all by himself.
I also see this all by myself attitude in my older boys. In fact, just last week, my six-year-old came and showed me the spaceship he made with Legos. It wasn’t enough to tell me about the powerful rocket blasters, incredibly accurate laser guns, and stealth landing gear attached to the underside of the spaceship; no, he emphatically stated, several times, that he made it “all by myself!”
That same day, my nine-year-old approached me, “Dad, when will I be old enough to stay home, all by myself?”
Like my boys, I find great pleasure in doing things, all by myself. It’s part of growing up–maturing to become a ‘real man.’ Being the not-so-handy guy that I am, I took great pride in installing a new kitchen faucet for my wife. I like that I could change the headlight bulb in my van without taking it into an auto shop. I feel good when I can help someone work through an emotionally difficult counseling situation. Having a truck to haul wood, bikes, and other big stuff so that I don’t need to ask to borrow someone else’s promotes a seemingly positive sense of “I can do this, all by myself.”
Being self-sufficient has a very lofty place in my life, and I would bet you, too, in one way or another, hold self-sufficiency in high regard. It’s just part of our culture. But more importantly, it is a sin problem.
The sense of accomplishment and pride I feel after completing a project all by myself invigorates me. Self-sufficiency makes us feel good because, deep down, at the core of who we are, we have a desire to make much of ourselves. Whether we realize it or not—whether we acknowledge it or not—we want to worship ourselves. This narcissistic state of being is subtle because our culture promotes it in an extreme way. Narcissism has keenly and quietly assimilated itself within our lives.
Our society wants our kids to develop a sense of pride in themselves. We’re called to “be all you can be.” We become afraid that if children do not have a high sense of value of themselves, they will turn into drug-addicts, alcoholics, or lazy couch-potatoes, who do not positively contribute to society.
In reality, kids need to know that they are insufficient because of their sinfulness and that they are deeply, forever loved by God, their Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ. When these truths collide in a child’s life–and, when their parents are the ones teaching and modeling these truths–kids will grow up to offer incredible gifts to society with their lives.
I do not consider myself to be some sort of ‘excellent parent’ (because I’m NOT), but I do see self-sufficiency as a major issue in American culture. I also see Jesus as being the fulfillment of our lack of sufficiency.
In America, we have been blessed, by God, with so much! We have so many more resources than in most other parts of the world. This fact not only calls us to give generously to those who do not have what we do; but, it also implies that we must be intentional about our battle with the sin of self-sufficiency. It is in no way wrong or sinful in itself to manage situations or do projects by ourselves. This becomes a challenging topic to address because there is value in being independent and not fully reliant on others to meet every basic need that we have (i.e. food, shelter, clothing—we need to get a jobs and provide for our basic needs). However, the problem arrises when our hearts fill, and begin to overflow, with pride, arrogance, self-promotion, and the addictive feelings of self-independence.
We were never made to go through life alone. On quite the contrary, God created us for community with Himself. Psalm 73:26 says, “God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” God is our portion for life! He is enough; He is sufficient. He is our everything! God created us to be solely dependent on Him.
As we depend on God, we were also made to exist in intentional community with one another. This truth is clearly stated throughout Scripture. In Genesis, God said of Adam, “I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). The New Testament speaks of each of us as being important parts of the “body of Christ.” Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
We were meant to live dependently in community with God and with one another. Self-sufficiency has no place in our lives. God desires to live and work through our lives to sustain, shape, and spur us on to do His work. God intentionally places other people are in our lives to help us. He places us in others’ lives to help them.
So, what should we do?
In times when we feel overwhelmingly self-sufficient, we need to repent and acknowledge our need for and reliance upon God. We need to see how God places others in our lives for a purpose—that we would invest in them and they in us.
In seasons of insufficiency, rejoice, because God created you to lean on Him. And, He is enough; He is always enough.
And as for parenting, when my youngest son came out of the bathroom, excited that he went potty all by himself, I responded: “That’s great buddy! I am thankful for how God helped you learn how to do that, but did you wash your hands?” You can probably guess his response.
There is still much more for us to learn.
Thank you, God, for creating us to be dependent on You and for Your merciful grace that sustains us through it all.