There are people in this world who were seemingly born independent, confident, and decisive. They’re the ones who are always in command of their surroundings — even if only in their own minds. They feel that they know what they’re doing, and they want to be left alone to do it their way, because their way is the best way.
I am not one of those people. Never have been. (Though my insecurity has, at times, caused me to fake it.)
And so when I made my first foray into the world of nonprofit administration now these twenty years ago, I didn’t exactly walk in and take the world by storm. I slipped quietly in a back door, picked up a vacuum and dust rag, and tried to make myself as useful yet inconspicuous as possible. I had never used a computer. I had never worked with the public. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing with my life. I just felt like I needed to make a difference, and that if cleaning toilets was the best I could do, then that’s what I’d do. But a young executive director named Robert Wheeless saw something in me. He put me on the phones and then the computer. He gave me projects, and made me believe I could do them. (And lo and behold, I did!) He nurtured me — even on days that I really wasn’t worth the effort. (I was kind of a mess then.) And though I still have plenty to learn, and I haven’t “arrived,” he laid the groundwork for the nonprofit professional I am today.
Spending some time in Genesis recently, I had a realization that it’s okay that I’m not a highly independent person. Because, in fact, God didn’t create us to be independent. He created us to (a) be dependent on Him and (b) to be dependent on each other. He didn’t put Adam in the Garden alone. He came and walked with Adam, teaching him and providing for him. And then, He put Eve with Adam and called them to build a community. Together. Dependent.
And then, sin entered the world.
None of us likes to talk about sin. In The Church, it’s often talked about as “one of those things those people do.” And outside The Church, it’s dismissed as non-existent, because seriously, don’t I have the right to do whatever makes me feel good? But I’ll stop right now and be the first to say that I have a sin problem.
If you don’t believe me, ask my brother.
When I was 8 years old, after a few days of writhing in pain and having xrays, my doctor put me in bed, in traction. And for two weeks, I spent 23.5 hours a day in bed with my Strawberry Shortcake doll to cuddle and a Smurfs lapdesk to color on. Within ten minutes, I was bored out of my mind. And then, my older brother and some of his friends came to entertain me. And unknown to any of our parents, they brought real-life, shiny, sharp Chinese throwing stars. And y’all, I don’t even know why I did it… but I threw one of those stars at my brother. (His ankle, people. I wasn’t looking to do permanent damage.) Why did I do that? Well, it certainly wasn’t out of an abundance of the love of Jesus in my heart. It was sin.
When we get adopted into the family of God, we have to learn a new family dynamic. We learn a new language. We develop different patterns than we had before. But if nobody teaches us these things, we will be lost and foundering. We’ll never feel like we’re really a part of the family. We’ll never fulfill our purpose, or grow into the person or position we’re supposed to be in.
In “Discipline of Grace,” Jerry Bridges says, “God never saves people and leaves them alone to continue in their immaturity and sinful lifestyle. Those whom He saves, He disciplines. Paul said this another way in Philippians 1:6: ‘He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.'” (Bridges, 82)
It’s really okay to be who you are. To be where you are. To be flawed and unfinished. To have rough edges (and sometimes a sharp tongue!). Because we aren’t walking this road alone. We’re all a glorious “Work in Progress” together in His hands.
Welcome to another week of our book discussion! If you’re behind on the reading — or, hey, if you aren’t doing the reading! — it’s okay. Everybody’s thoughts are welcome here! But if you have read the chapter and written a response, you can link up at the widget, which today, is at my co-facilitator Jason’s place.