I heard part of a sermon on marriage yesterday and something the man said, well, as my oldest daughter would say, “punched me in the face.” The preacher said, “Marriage provides the security to deny independence.”
As I drove on, I heard the concept of self-sufficiency come up three more times in different ways and I really felt that the Lord was pressing this idea upon my heart.
All I could think of was our culture’s obsession with individualism and independence. Beyonce made a song about it a decade ago and I still cringe every time I hear it. The message? I do not need you, man. I do not need anyone. I can get it all on my own and I prefer to be that way. Independence is power and I need nothing else. Self-sufficiency and independence are not only idols, but gods of the majority in our culture today.
But what is the alternative?
Dependence. Needing others. Needing help. Trusting another person with the deep things as well as the daily. From finances to feelings, many marriages fall by bowing to the god of independence. Dependence is not popular, at least not here in pull yourself up by your bootstraps, independent America.
It got me to thinking about not only my own marriage, but the fact that Christ chose the church to be his bride. He chose marriage as the symbol of his relationship towards his people. Dependence is a huge part of being a Christian. Oops. There I go again saying things no one wants to hear. The truth is that no one can be saved apart from total dependence on the work of Christ. No one can live in line with the gospel apart from dependence on Christ.
I have two examples stirring in my mind to illustrate these realities: the insecure wife and the overprotective mom.
The Insecure Wife
I have never been a particularly good cook. I’m not as bad as I used to be but, well, ok I suck at cooking for the most part. I remember early in our marriage, my husband would often stop at his mom’s house to eat on the way home from work. One could hardly blame him, and a lot of it was just part of transitioning from being a 19 year old at home to a 19 year old in his own home, but as a new wife it was very discouraging. Often I would avoid cooking altogether because I did not want to risk rejection over it again.
As time went on and when I did cook, he would come into the kitchen and offer “suggestions.” I am not sure if that was more or less worse than just not showing up, but it did not make for happy meals. I would not take his advice because I was proud. I would not take his advice because I was insecure. Instead, I would get mad feeling like a failure and wondering why he just could not see my effort.
Now, when he walks into the kitchen and offers help, I pinch myself to see if I am dreaming. I am grateful and welcoming his help. I delegate as much as possible when my husband comes in to give me assistance. When I place a meal in front of him – even if it is sub-par, he compliments and thanks me.
The maturity level changed. We stopped clinging to the independence and selfish rights we believed we had. His suggestions transformed from condescension to servant-hood. My focus changed from duty, obligation, and approval to how I can best please the one I love.
My error with cooking was one of inexperience, insecurity, and ignorance. There is another way to err on the opposite side of this coin, though. It is realized in trusting in self as well. Have you ever seen a helicopter mom?
The Helicopter Mom
This is the overprotective mom who does absolutely everything for her (often only) child. The child does not fail because mom never allows him to get that far on his own. She does literally everything in order to “protect” him and create a facade of having a responsible child or, even, husband.
When a woman does this in her family, she frustrates and cripples her children. She disrespects and emasculates her husband. When she does this at work or in the church, she exacerbates those around her and they give up trying to contribute. This woman does not understand that responsibility must be given in order to be learned.
There are many people who never get to maturity regarding dependence. Both in marriage and in the church, we often get stuck in the “I need help but do not want it” martyrdom camp because of pride or insecurity or both. We fail to realize that dependence is paramount. It is never a matter of needing help vs. being able to do things individually as much as it is a matter of reflecting our dependence and need for Christ by recognizing our dependence and need for other people. It is a rejection of the idol of self-sufficiency and an acceptance of a faith which requires humility. Humility hears suggestions as help rather than hate or hurt. This is counter-cultural. No one is teaching their daughters to depend on a man these days – and perhaps for good reason. No one is teaching women how to let their children fail for the greater good of learning responsibility anymore. But the church must not forsake the practice of interdependence and learned responsibility based on cultural norms.
Maturity is often rooted in dependence. The world will tell you just the opposite. Dependence is often rooted in maturity. The world will tell you just the opposite. When we throw away the idols of insecurity, pride, approval, individualism, and self-centered thinking, our families – both church and home – will thrive.