It’s no secret or surprise that humans are fiercely independent creatures. Most of the time, we’re applauded for being independent, and indeed there’s a lot of good that our inclination to do things ourselves can do. Independence has become a badge of success in our lives, with us congratulating people for their self-sufficiency and capability. We want to be able to do things ourselves, plain and simple, and we want the credit for having done them.
Cut to Christian living where we all too often find ourselves at odds with our independence and God’s will. We really do want to do big things for the Kingdom. In fact, we’re told to do big things for the kingdom, but perhaps, just as often, we are reminded to surrender our will and let God work through us. So what are we supposed to be doing? Charging or retreating? Being independent or dependent?
Reading on what the Bible has to say about our part in the grand scheme of things, we see, not a preference of one over the other, but a combination of the two to achieve the most in God’s plan. One of the most well-known verses in the Bible, Philippians 4:13, says “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” plain and simple, capturing the duality of our need for independence and surrender.
Our personal ferocity for Christ is there. We’re champing at the bit, ready to do ALL things for Christ. “Put me in the fight! I’m ready!”. But submission is there as well, gently directing us to put all that tenacity and ferocity towards getting ourselves as close to what God is doing until we’re not the source of power behind it.
In a lot of ways, we are like hammers. A hammer is an incredibly useful tool. It’s the first tool we associate with building and the potential of its construction capability is a well-documented fact. Try building a structure without one. But what good is a hammer sitting alone on a workbench? The hammer doesn’t have any real ability to hop up and build a house when you’re not looking. It could think as much of itself as it wants to and could brag all day about all the houses it’s worked on, but if it tried to act out and do its job completely independently we would see just how little that hammer can actually do on its own.
A hammer needs a builder. Someone needs to pick it up and use it if it’s ever going to accomplish anything. That’s the crux of a verse like Philippians 4:13. It’s not a celebration of our own capability, but a direction to who can use our capability to accomplish any good. In God’s hands, a simple hammer is suddenly able to build a house. God uses a hammer, changing our will to match his until BANG the hammer is able to swing through the air and hit its mark. BANG we strike blow after blow in his plan. BANG the walls start to rise on what he’s trying to build. Because the truth of the matter is we are not the builders. We were never intended to be.
Sometimes it seems monstrously unfair just how little we are truly able to do on our own. But in time, I’ve come to realize the potential that lies in my own inability. When my inability is completely surrendered to God and I somehow STILL manage to overcome and be part of the story, that does not go unnoticed. People don’t see the whole picture that you do, but they see that you were able to accomplish something that you shouldn’t have been able to and most of the time their curiosity will get the better of them.
So yes, we have to admit that we can’t do as much on our own as we thought, but there’s an amazing pay off in another hammer coming to you and saying: “How did you build this whole house by yourself? I’ve been trying to do that for ages! How did you do it?”. At that moment, you have the immense privilege of saying “I didn’t.”, and that in itself is an amazing start to shedding light on what God is doing. Because on the other side of all this surrender is a glorious opportunity for independence. We can make the conscious, independent choice to give all the credit and glory to God.
So in our need to be these independent creatures, we must ask ourselves: were will we exercise that independence? Will it all go towards convincing people that we can do things just fine by ourselves? Or will we make the conscious choice to give credit where credit is due and be a hammer in the hands of a capable builder? Therein, we see the best glimmer of our independence. The choice is ours alone.
Let's find some joy,