“It is a good thing that I did not become paralyzed, I would enjoy it too much and lay around and do nothing.” These words, or some like them, have been echoed to me many different times since I became a paraplegic. I always give a smile and say, “No you wouldn’t” and think that I am right. Whether I am or not I don’t know. This battle for independence. I think some of it does depend on your personality but a lot of it comes from an inward drive where your body knows you can never be totally independent, but your heart says “watch me try!”
I was thinking about a man that I know. He has some mental handicaps and although he lives alone, he requires monitoring and assistance with daily challenges. His guardian was talking to me about how stubborn he can be. I know this man and I know she is right! He desires to make decisions and be in control but he just can’t quite do it. That must be frustrating.
For myself, I know how very hard I push to do everything by myself. I always tell my husband that he better let me do it all now because when I get old, someone else will probably have too! I don’t want “pushed”. I am capable of doing that myself! I don’t want you to get the door for me. I can open a door for you and get in myself! I don’t want you to help me get in a car. I can do it so please leave me alone! I don’t want you to carry me up the stairs. It must somehow be easier to get out, pull my body up step after step and arrive at the top justified that I did it all alone.
I may have accomplished those things by myself, but I was probably foolish doing it. I am all for being independent, but I would have thanked you for opening that door when I was walking so just what am I trying to prove? Before I sound vicious, I want you to understand that I don’t ever tell people to stop pushing me, get out of my way, or put me down. I smile graciously and thank them. It is just the thoughts inside my head that I am now confessing to!
I can get from the floor up into my chair by myself. I have swam a little excessively this week so my back and upper body are in quite a bit of pain and worn out so I couldn’t get in my chair last night. I had a friend nearby who I asked to give me a boost. It killed me to have to ask her! This was something I could do – and I had to have help!! The thought of being dependent, of needing help, was really hard on my independent spirit!
I find a fascinating correlation between this and my spiritual life. You know, there are some things that God requires of us – a sort of spiritual independence. He says to “choose you this day whom ye will serve.” Hey, that’s up to me! But then He offers His help saying “I will bless them that bless me.” He says to “Be strong…” – I can handle that because I think I am tough! Then it says “…in the Lord” – now that’s a different story. That puts my strength in being dependent on Him. We are told that the great King David of old “encouraged himself” – see, grab yourself by the bootstraps and get with the program! Then it says how he did that “…in the Lord.” That involved dependence again. Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things…” – we like that don’t we? But then it finishes with “…through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
You see, my friend, this battle of independence goes beyond my physical challenges. It affects my relationship to God also. I am given an independent choice to serve God, to trust God, to stay faithful to God, to rejoice in the Lord, to surrender my life, my plans and my wishes to my Maker. Yet through all of those independent choices, there is a realization that I can do none of those things without depending on God and allowing His strength to compensate for my weaknesses.
I desire to be independent in my daily life. I desire to do everything I can without anyone else helping me. I desire to live as normally as I did before my wheelchair and I became partners. But I also realize that there are times that this just isn’t realistic and I will have to feel dependent and “less” as a person and I need to learn to be okay with that too.
So, it is in my spiritual life. I desire to trust God, to be strong, to have faith, to serve without question, to be okay with a less-than-perfect body and all the complications that go with that, and to keep on smiling without a quiver. But sometimes this isn’t realistic either and I find myself weary, fearful, questioning and grumbly! This is exactly the point that I am reminded that I am not spiritually independent for without Him I can do nothing!
May God help me to surrender in the battle for independence and depend on Him!