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Monday, October 28, 2013

Day 28: Dependent on God and Connected to People

Dependent = unable to exist or function satisfactorily without the aid of another
Connect = to join, link, or unite

First of all, it seems like we hear a lot of terms bounced around - dependence, co-dependence, interdependence, and independence. In our culture independence is valued and dependency is equated with weakness. But what is God's view of this whole thing?

This is my theory. Infants are born totally dependent on their parents, unable to do anything for themselves. As parents (or other significant adults in their lives) our goal is to teach children to live independent lives . . . or so the view of the world goes. I would agree that we are to teach them to live in a way that is not dependent on people, however we need to train them to shift their dependence to God. We are not to live independently, for much of what is part of independence is also at the root of sin. We are to live depending on God and connected to people.

What do I mean by that? We are to live in complete dependence on God. We trust God to meet our needs - emotional, physical, spiritual, relational, intellectual. We trust God and God alone, not our spouse, not a good friend, not our family, not our pets or church or coworkers. God may use each and everyone of those people and that's great, that's good, that's WONDERFUL!! But at the core of who we are, our trust, our dependence must be on God not on those people. If any of those people or things are taken away, we must know that God will continue to meet our needs. God will continue to care for us. That's the dependence part.

Yet, we are to be CONNECTED to people. God created us to connect and be part of relationships with people. He said it was not good for man to be alone. The Bible is full of relationships and instructions about relationships and how to love others, how to have great relationships with others. Relationships are very important and God made us in such a way that we have the capacity and find great joy and fulfillment in having deep, intimate relationships with other human beings. That is good. Our DEPENDENCE must remain on God. Even in the deepest, most intimate of relationships our dependence must be on God, so that if that relationship is taken away through death or other separation, we are still able to go on, we are still whole people. Hurt, wounded, grieving, yes, but still whole, still healthy, still able to go on.

The difficulty comes when we look at the gift instead of the Gift Giver, when we shift our focus away from God as the Meeter of Needs, to a person or group of people, to money, to position, to anything other than God. This is easy to do because God is intangible to our 5 senses and human beings and possessions are tangible and often readily available. Despite the fact that it is a normal human response and an easy trap to fall into, it is a trap.

God alone will walk beside us through every trial. God alone will endure consistently and faithfully in our lives until death and beyond. Human beings will fall and fail and falter. God will not. God is the only one on whom we can depend.

Yet, God commands us to enter into relationships with human beings. So the answer cannot be to shut ourselves off from people. There is a way to connect deeply with people, even to enter into the one-flesh relationship of marriage and still be dependent only on God.

The solution is two-fold. One half of the solution is our relationship with God, the other half is our relationship with people.

Our relationship with God must be the number one priority in our life. He has to be first. He has to be the first place we run. We have to recognize and acknowledge Him (continually) as the Meeter of our Need and run to Him to do that. We have to put the time and energy into our relationship with Him that's required to keep that relationship strong, healthy, and dynamic. We have to surrender ourselves to Him, let go of our pride, our rights, our desires, our everything and deliberately choose to be DEPENDENT on Him in everything and for everything.

In our relationships with people we need to be what one author calls "differentiated but close". The key to developing this kind of relationship is personal boundaries. When boundaries are vague, a person's individual identity is lost. This is not good. It leads to people living reactively to the other person's emotions. Because one or both people's well-being is influenced by the other's emotions, mechanisms to control the other's emotions develop. The opposite is also true. When boundaries are rigid and communication is severed the relationship becomes distant and cut off.

The "differentiated but close" relationship is the balance in the middle. Each person in the relationship has boundaries, but they are permeable enough to allow for free flowing communication (and that communication exists). They are able to be together without anxiety or emotional entanglement. They have a mutually supportive relationship while maintaining their own identities. They are able to have intimacy without control or dependence. Each person is comfortable with who they are and comfortable with who the other person is (or at least able to accept who the other person is and let them be who they are).

the "differentiated but close" model for relationships is the balance that God desires for relationships, for connections with people, even in the most intimate relationships. Only in that model can people have truly fulfilling, intimate, healthy, and connected relationships with other people. There is no dependence on people, just connection, love, and support. Meanwhile, we choose to DEPEND on God and God alone to meet our needs, while we connect with people.

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