Navigating My Way

In a waiting room recently, I flipped through a magazine and a subtitle caught my eye. (Is this where I confess that I was reading Parents?!)

“Your child isn’t being bad. He just needs help navigating his way toward independence.”

The article on discipline (actually, on overdoing discipline) wasn’t all bad. Yes, of course there are times for training and understanding, not time-outs and punishment. And, independence—in one sense of the word—is an huge part of kids’ maturity.

But the phrase “navigating his way toward independence” got me: it reminded me of failure at attempted independence.

How many years have I been taught that God must be number one in my life? How many times I have sung “You are my all in all”? And yet I still venture out on my own, to do things myself. Loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength sounds like a good idea until it means denying self.

Self. Myself. Independence.

in • de • pend • ence (noun) freedom from dependence on or control by another person, organization, or state
in • de • pend • ent (adjective) able to operate alone; not forced to rely on another for support; capable of thinking or acting without consultation with or guidance from others

I exist only because God created me. “All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Col. 1:16-17). He created me to know Him and to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). That well-known “all things work together for good” verse directly precedes this one about being conformed to Christ’s image. The “good things” that God brings into my lives aren’t things that satisfy and feed self. They’re the things that destroy self and make me like Christ.

Destruction of self hasn’t exactly been on my to-do list. Impression management, maintaining reputation, satisfying desires … those have been on the top. But when I think I’m checking them off, in reality, I’m believing a lie. How foolish to attempt independence from the Source of my every breath.

Destruction of self should be on my to-do list: putting off the old man, putting on the new man—who is dependent upon and surrendered to the Spirit of God. Because Christ is in me, “the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Rom. 8:10). Walking in the flesh (following my own desires) brings death; but if “by the Spirit [I] put to death the deeds of the body, [I] will live” (Rom. 8:13).

When God shows me how short life is and the incredible purposes He has for me, I surrender. But then an hour later I am faced with the choice of fulfilling my desire, following my agenda or giving in to my emotion. The reality of denying self—to become conformed to Christ—comes in surprising “unspiritualized” ways. It’s the everyday things. And it’s those everyday things where I submit to the Lord or “navigate my way toward independence.”

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