~ Utterly Dependent ~
Many give an intellectual nod of the head to the understanding that we are dependent on God for everything. "God provides," "All good gifts come from the Lord," "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." These statements come easily to mind and we nod in agreement.
There is a particular understanding that has grown in my heart and daily experience over the last couple of months. I have yet to penetrate its depths, but have experienced a hint of what it means and await its full power of understanding manifested in living: I am utterly dependent on God for everything, including my very next breath.
In his public prayers, a friend of mine always begins his thanks with gratitude to God for "waking us up this morning." Yes, that's a thought. I woke up this morning only by the power and will of my Creator. That thought, however, leads to others: I fell asleep only with His will, presence and strength; I swallow my morning juice only with His will and strength; My next heart beat is monitored and approved by God. "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs on your head are all numbered" (Matthew 10:29-30, NIV). "'Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?' For from him and through him and to him are all things" (Romans 11:35-36a, NIV). "He [Christ] is the image of God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:15-17, NIV).
Christ is the Incarnational Person of the Godhead, the sublime mystery of the Trinity, not to be understood as much as experienced in the visceral center of one's body and soul. Even to lift a fork and eat food, once living things that died to give our bodies life (and a picture of the Gospel, death giving life,) can only be done with the Incarnate's permission and will. This delightful and awesome consciousness must be cultivated through prayer and contemplation.
Ponder for a few minutes the implications of truly being conscious we are utterly dependent on God for every single thing, movement, thought. In entering the depths of that understanding, we realize that our pride in accomplishing anything is vanity and arrogance. If we cannot claim prideful credit for beating our hearts or digesting our last meal, how can we stand ourselves when we take credit for "20 years of spiritual ministry" or "being an instrument of God's grace to others" or "raising God fearing born again children"?
The Native Americans described our lives from the perspective of the Creator with such metaphors as "the breath of a buffalo in the winter" and "the shadow of the setting sun racing across the fields." The Psalter states, "You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning -- though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered" (Psalm 90:5-6, NIV); "When you hide your face, they [all creatures] are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth" (Psalm 104:29-30, NIV); "No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine" (Psalm 33:16-19, NIV). "A voice says, 'Cry out.' And I said, 'What shall I cry?' 'All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the falls fall, but the word of our God stands forever'" (Isaiah 40:6-8, NIV). "I am the vine...apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5, NIV).
We may say "grace" before eating. How about upon walking? "Thank you that I can walk today, by your power and grace." Not everyone can walk. "Thank you that I can sleep by your power and grace." Not everyone can sleep. "Thank you that I can speak today, by your power and grace." Not everyone can speak, or hear, or see. "Deeply bless my walking, my sleeping, my speaking, and let me do it in your name and as an act of grateful worship."
These ongoing prayers of grace throughout every hour of the day are not just prayers of thanksgiving for what we have received and for what we can do. They are born in and nurtured by the soul gripping consciousness of utter dependence, that we cannot take self enhancing pride in what we receive or do without grieving the Holy Spirit. Self-esteem building classes and self-empowerment courses are not part of the Gospel's curriculum!
Assertions like, "I give God a tenth of my income...I give God an hour of my time every morning...I thank God that I can help so many people" betray a pathetic ignorance of spiritual reality. Those that say, "Praise God" in response to declarations like these are really praising human vanity in God's name and that is counter to the commandments against idolatry and using the name of God in vain. They are counter to Christ's sacred declaration, "Apart from me you can do nothing." That's a declaration that bristles the human ego into raising its objections, rationalizations and defenses even though the human head may nod in agreement. That's a declaration that, when understood and embraced by the heart of the depths of the soul, recreates all of one's being, perceiving and doing. This process, induced by suffering, hardship, emotional and spiritual challenges, or in contemplative immersion in Scripture and its practice and in contemplative prayer and self-sacrificing acts of authentic love, is theologically called sanctification. But taking pride in becoming sanctified is fatal to that process too.
So there is no way out but in...into the narrow gate of surrender and the acknowledgment and practice of utter dependence on Him "in whom all things are held together."
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
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Weekly Reflections © May 17, 2003
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