In Mark’s gospel, Jesus rebukes his disciples for turning children away.
Mark 10, 14-15 Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.
The words, “such as these” are significant. You don’t have to be child to receive the Kingdom of God, but you have to be child-like. Nor does it mean ‘innocent’ as a child, because child or not, there’s the whole ‘missing the mark‘ thing by our simply being human. It means dependence, just as children are dependent on their parents.
I had a bit of a problem with that. A psych told me very seriously a few years back that I rate abnormally highly on the emotional independence scale. Which has been useful in some situations (leaving home, relocating to the other side of the world, making stuff happen without requiring a committee-size amount of input) but not so good when it comes to personal relationships. Whether it’s a human 1:1 relationship or one with Jesus and God.
You don’t need a psych degree to figure out why: I ended up being responsible for my own emotional support from a young age. In my worldview, being dependent on another led to my Mum attempting suicide when I was six, and her inability to leave an abusive (second) marriage until I told her we absolutely had to pack our bags. All tough lessons to learn before your 13th birthday. Much safer, my id decided, to be independent of anyone.
We also live in a world that values independence. It’s a skill we’re told our children need. To take more control of our lives and not be reliant on others to accomplish our goals. We can do this life on our own, on our terms. So verses such as Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding challenged me hugely.
Yet, in hindsight, I think God dealt me the last few years in preparation for my unpacking Christianity. Post my business GFC-crash, life was not like anything I had dreamt. I had to learn to deal with debt, swallow pride, and ask for help. Large lessons indeed for someone whose very personality was forged out of a fear of dependence. I learnt that swallowing pride did not choke me. That I did not emerge weakened by being dependent. And whilst I personally dislike the use of the phrase ‘born again’ (which makes me somewhat heretical given Jesus used the phrase in John’s Gospel: Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God), I identify with the notion of renewal and rebirth.
The SAP used a big word in a sermon a while back. Sanctification. And I’ll need to throw another one in to explain it. Justification. Here goes (another possible off-piste moment):
Justification happens the moment you place your faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Instantaneous. Which is possibly why SAP uses the analogy of downloading a new operating system. Thank goodness for NBN. Imagine if all us lost souls were waiting on dial-up?
So, imagine it a bit like putting in your Apple ID, except this time your password is ‘faith in Jesus’ sacrifice’. Then you get free access to the eternal ‘app store’ in heaven. It’s a gift, which is received by faith alone. No works are necessary whatsoever to obtain justification. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a gift, freely given. Therefore, we are ‘justified’ by having faith.
After justification, comes sanctification. Which is ongoing. Like having those rough edges smoothed out, day after day. God’s Holy Spirit working in you to produce more of a godly character and life. And, to clear up any lingering ‘sinning again and again‘ concerns, the idea isn’t to be passive in this. Instead it’s about being actively involved in working to be more godly. Sucking the marrow out of a grace-filled life with great joy.
The combination of both justification and sanctification means you don’t get to rest on yesterday’s victory, but neither are you paralysed by yesterday’s failure. The two result in your renewal. Being ‘born-again’.
So dependency doesn’t make me less. It makes me more. Active, engaged. And the ‘Holy Spirit in action’ part of sanctification? Best skin product ever. Seriously. I’m pretty sure I stuff mine up by surviving on five hours sleep writing these blogs, but there is just something about the skin of someone who’s grasped faith, spirit and grace. Perhaps L’Oreal can put Jesus as the new face for its “Because You’re Worth It” campaign? (I had to go with Gandalf, sorry SAP).