I was brought up in a world where being independent was highly esteemed. As an American. As a radical homeschooler. As a Woofenden. As an oldest. As an Anna. Independence was prized, and had a profound and primarily positive impact upon molding me into who I am today. Most days I have boldly forged ahead in life, moving across the country and putting myself through college, engaging in dream jobs that hadn’t existed prior to me taking them, traveled across the oceans, purchased a home at age 23, jumping off the cliff of secure job into the unknown world of seminary. I lead a self-sufficient and independent life.
Then there’s dependence. Certainly I was deeply dependent on my parents growing up: they fed me, clothed me, educated me, nurtured me, provided safe space for me to explore and grow. Even as a strong-willed teen-ager who thought she could do it on her own, I was provided for and cared for. Dependent. And that was a gift. I was depended upon as well, as a big sister to six, a leader in the youth group, and a part of the household. As an adult, I’ve learned dependence in other ways, from friends and employers, relationships, institutions and organizations. Some in ways that served, other times noticing that I had become depended on others for my sense of self and worth. When I went through a serious illness, I learned the deep humility and gift of dependence. I was taken in and cared for, fed, driven and gently nurtured back to health by friends, family and community. I learned that one could be loved and cared for while being unable to give anything in return. I learned the beauty of dependence.
As I move through life, the push and pull of dependence and independence continue to refine me. I continue to learn how to be vulnerable with others, learning to ask for and receive help as well as give it freely. I’m growing in trust in the ebb and flow in human relationship. Finding the place of respect and appreciation for friends and their opinions, without relinquishing my sense of self to those around me. We walk the tightrope, when to lean, when to stand tall, the time to break down walls, and the awareness to not become enmeshed.
I think this might be part of learning interdependence.
(A number of other blog posts are coming to mind here. How these ways of being dependent, independent and interdependent might manifest in our society, religion, politics, international relations, the world as a whole. But those are musings for another day; just one more paragraph before I go.)
Gotta talk about God for a moment. Am I dependent on God? Yes: for every life’s breath, every green tree, every compassionate gesture. All of it. Am I independent from God? Yes, I believe in someway I am. It is this independence that gives me freedom, (or at least a sense of it). I feel free to choose to act and think and be. Independent in the idea that God is God and I am not. Being the human in the dance of Divinity and humanity. And yet, it is hard for me to state with any strength that I am independent from God, though on paper there’s something to it. Maybe this third word is the one to use. Am I interdependent with God? Is interdependence, the ebb and flow, the giving and receiving, the reciprocity and mutual connection, the essence of Divinity itself?
I don’t have all the answers. But, then again, neither do all the experts. What do you think?