Saturday, March 14, 2015

"Me Do" and My Inner Toddler

"Me do."

If you've spent anytime around a toddler you've probably heard these two words, "me do." The message is clear. I don't need your help, I can do it on my own.

The little girl in this video is intent on fastening her own car-seat buckle. She is learning to do things on her own and we applaud her because it means she is growing up and maturing. Parents know that the process of raising children is really one long attempt to move kids from dependence to independence. We hope that one day our children will be able to live on their own and support themselves.

It is ironic then, that independence is actually a detriment to relationships. It's crazy really. So much of our life is lived in an effort to become independent. Unless we are self-aware enough to know what's happening, we simply move through the stages of independence, believing each new step brings us closer to living life as a healthy mature adult. For many, the idea of dependence on someone else is counter-intuitive. It is definitely counter-cultural.
"Because we live in a culture that worships independence, many of us tend to demonize any degree of dependence and see it as weakness. In order to avoid the judgments of others (and ourselves) many of us try to conceal the dependence that is intrinsic to our nature as humans. We are, after all interdependent, social beings that require involvement with others in order to meet our intrinsic physical and emotional needs and to grow and thrive. The definition of dependence is “a reliance on something or someone”. The definition is neutral; but for so many, the word “dependency” is a dirty word. In our “me” centered, society, it is a popular belief that to achieve maturity, we must become absolutely autonomous, and self-sufficient. If we allow others to become dependent on us, or we are dependent on them, it is typically viewed as negative or even pathological." - Breaking Free from the Myth of Independence/Interdependence is the Key to Successful Relationships by Linda and Charlie Bloom
Marriage is often the relationship that if not immediately, then eventually, brings the tension of moving towards dependence into the light. The struggle intensifies in serious relationships.


Read Independence and the Deception of Freedom for more on independence within a marriage relationship. 

However, marriage is not the only relationship where clinging to our independence rears it's ugly head. Relationships with friends, co-workers, class-mates and relatives are also affected. Our inner toddler continues to shout, "me do!"

It was a hectic Wednesday morning as we got ready to leave the hotel. Two women in the same hotel room with one bathroom is always a problem – especially when running on a tight schedule. My business partner graciously offered to get us coffee from the cafĂ© downstairs and I was not about to argue. Fifteen minutes later I heard my associate fumbling outside of our room. I rushed to open the door for her and in that split second I heard the cup hit the floor. In her effort to manage the doorknob with full hands, she dropped one of the cups.

I remember thinking later that day, that’s how we live our lives, independently, never asking for help and living as if it's all up to us. Rather than tapping on the door and waiting for me to open it, she struggled to handle it on her own. Instead of acknowledging that she could have used the help, she needed to prove she was capable. Relationship experts, Linda and Charlie Bloom, accurately diagnose our inner critic who believes our dependence means we are childish, neurotic, weak, and needy.

Ultimately, our relationship with God is in the cross-fire. The idea of giving up and giving in is so counter-intuitive, we cannot imagine putting ourselves in a position of complete dependence on God. We wrestle and fight to maintain some shred of independence. It is a constant battle of surrender over control and it leads to exhaustion.

The bible calls it slavery, I call it sheer and utter exhaustion.

Our incessant need to maintain control and appear independent is tiring. We are at the end of our rope, weary and spent from trying to perform for others, and for God.

It is a relief then to find out that for the Christian, maturity does not equal independence. For the believer, any sense of maturity will manifest itself in increasing dependency. Any signs of improvement in our spiritual lives is a movement toward weakness not strength. For the life of a believer the best news ever is a recognition that we don't have this figured out, we're not all that able, and we need Another.

About the most mature thing we can say is I'm exhausted, I'm a mess, I give up. 

It's what Paul confessed at the end of his life. Many would have thought a sign of maturity from the apostle Paul would have looked something like, "I've been preaching the gospel for a long time and I think I finally have this Christian thing down." Instead, we hear him declare, "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost." Paul is honest about his dependence on God and admitted, "I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord."

When God told the disciples to become like children, I don't think he had "me do" in mind. I think instead, it was an invitation to, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

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