I'm an oldest child; I like to blaze trails. I like to do things by myself. Don't even suggest that it would be better to do something together, because I want to do it on my terms, in my timing.
I've been told I have a gift of apostleship. It's the gift that drives missionaries, church planters and entrepreneurs. An apostle isn't satisfied with the here and now; she wants to create new venues and expressions, visit new places and bring new aspects of the Kingdom of God to communities.
New relationships excite me. I like meeting new people and hearing their stories. I love considering what God has in store for me and others.
But the dark side of the apostle/oldest child combination is independence. And independence is just code for "I don't need anyone." And that's actually a lie.
A few weeks ago, when our group at school visited a ropes course, it was a wake-up call to dependence. I expected it to be like the ropes course at camp: everyone stands at the bottom and watches while the person on the rope displays their awesomeness at overcoming fear and getting across. Imagine my dismay when our ropes instructor, Larry, took our group of eight to the top and told us that we had to get across the course - all connected. I admit I was not thinking very nice things about Larry.
But what I expected and what happened were two very different things. It was actually being a team that got us across the course. Many times, our collective strength and balance kept us up there when one of us would have fallen. There were times when I clung to others, practically eyeball-to-eyeball, and every straining muscle in my body was grateful that I wasn't up there alone.
Also, I noticed that it was way more fun and pressure-free to do the course as a team. It completely freed us of performance issues.
A few months ago, I gave a second-year student a ride home from the church. She asked me how it was going so far. "Honestly?" I said, "Being here is a dream come true and I thought I'd be ecstatic all the time. But sometimes I feel overwhelmed." She laughed and said, "Don't worry, I felt that way last year too. But it's okay to feel like that. It's important to be vulnerable, because to be vulnerable is to be brave."
That has proven prophetic.
Recently we had a speaker who talked about dependence being our only job. She said Jesus told us we're branches and He's the vine. And the only job a branch has is to be dependent on the vine and just hang there, receiving nutrients. It doesn't create leaves or fruit on its own. In fact, it can only bear fruit if it learns to be dependent.
Okay, I'm sensing a theme in all of this. When I talked about my independence with an older friend here, she nodded and said gravely, "Yes, God asked me to repent of that myself a few years ago."
Repent? Really? It's actually a sin?
So I did. I told God that I don't want to try to do things on my own any more. I told Him I need Him, and that I need Andrew, family and friends. I know it might take some time for me to learn to live that out, and that change may be gradual, but my Jesus is patient with me.