Thursday, June 13, 2013

From dependence to independence to interdependence

Read  Galatians 2:19-21

A baby is a totally dependent being. It can do nothing for itself. It must wait for others to take care of its food, its clothing, its cleanliness, its protection. As a child grows, though, she learns to take care of herself, to put on her own clothes, to help prepare a meal, to wash and dry herself, to defend herself. As the child reaches adolescence and adulthood, those personal resources are developed which allow one to earn one’s living and so buy the needed food and clothes, rent an apartment or buy a house. The child has become independent, autonomous. She has grown up.

The strange thing is that as young people experience this growth in autonomy, they simultaneously experience a seemingly contradictory process: they fall in love. They discover happiness in being with another, in spending time in another’s presence. They even conclude that, without that other person in their life, they will be unhappy. It’s as if the independence they learned to conquer over the years has become a source of sadness and solitude.

From dependance to autonomy to interdependance: someone once described these as the three stages in the journey to personal maturity. The same could be said of spiritual maturity.

Humanity as a whole lived a time of total dependence on the divine. People imagined that everything depended on the gods: weather, health, fertility, even good fortune. They said prayers and offered sacrifices in the hopes of attracting divine good will so that events would develop as they hoped. Yet, through the centuries, we have discovered the autonomy of the world. Weather does not depend on God, but on climatologic factors. Health and disease are a function of nutrition and exercise, of genetic or toxic material. Fertility can be studied and controlled. And fortune, whether good or bad, is simply the unpredictable outcome of the chaos of life.

Yet this autonomy has left humanity in a state of deep solitude and alienation. Life has lost its meaning, values no longer have a compass. This is an occasion for us to rediscover God, not as an authoritarian figure who seeks to dominate us, but as the Other who encounters us to establish a life-giving, transforming relationship with us. We discover interdependence with the divine. Then, with Saint Paul, I can know the joy of saying: “I live, yet it is no longer I, it is Christ who lives in me.”

This is the way to being fully alive. For we have been made neither for dependence nor for independence, but for a relationship with the One who created us and gave us life.

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