"I CAN DO IT ME SELF"
The story has been retold for me countless times. There I stand, at the door, blonde hair totally disheveled, trying to put on my puffy red coat. In comes Grandpa, kindly holding the arm out for me to make it a little easier. “I CAN DO IT ME SELF.”
That was my 18-month-old self’s response to help. And my family laughs about that. We laugh because it was strange to see such a little person speaking so clearly and resolutely. And then we applaud because we see a little person who has determination, drive, and self-sufficiency.
That’s a pretty good snapshot of my childhood, and I have far too many home videos to prove it (though I worked out the me/my thing somewhere in there). “I CAN DO IT ME SELF” has helped me accomplish some pretty daunting tasks, kept me from fearing people, and encouraged me to stay focused when I would have strayed.
It’s also what kept me at an arm’s length from God for almost two decades following that scene. Reading the Bible and believing “I CAN DO IT ME SELF.” Essentially saying that I would play by God’s rules, but hold a different definition of victory, never recognizing that I was indeed insufficient for my own salvation.
I praise God for the faithful preaching of his Word that brought me to repentance and resting fully in his blood-bought payment on my behalf. It seemed like the end of “I CAN DO IT ME SELF,” but our kind Father is always pruning us and making us more into his image.
I sat in the gym on Sunday (on the north side, I might add) listening to Pastor JJ’s sermon, and I felt my heart trembling again, clinging to every last shred of, “I CAN DO IT ME SELF.” My sassy toddler self might have said it more directly, but my life says this is still what I believe.
“Prayer’s existence, or nonexistence, depends on how sufficient I think I am.” Gulp. Self-sufficient? No, I’m not self-sufficient. After all, I am trusting in Christ for my salvation. See? I can’t do it all.
“A life lived with God is not meant … to be a single event … rather, it’s to be ongoing.” Ongoing? You mean, I wasn’t given “all things needed for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3) at the moment of conversion? God desires me to commune with him at all times as a continual reminder of my continual dependence on him. Continual. That means right now. And now. And 30 minutes ago when I sat down at my computer to write this and had no words. I don’t really know how to cultivate that type of prayer life.
“That’s the beauty of biblical prayer. It’s not supposed to be something we can manage and do on our own and accomplish in our own strength. But God has given grace and the Spirit to do it by his power.” Not in my own strength? I have to be dependent on God to even express my dependence on God. That leaves zero room for the “I CAN DO IT ME SELF” road. But how to move on from here?
“Our maturing in Christ is not an individual event … it’s a corporate process. It’s all of us being built together.” More dependence? Perfect. Just what I was looking for. More need for more people. My flesh beats against the very thought of it in a culture that praises individual achievements, independence, and belief in self. Dependence on a wholly perfect and all-sustaining God? Check. But dependence on sinful people who might not always do the right thing or have the right answer? That sounds messy. That sounds time consuming. That sounds hard.
“Do you know people well enough that you can know how to pray for them and they can pray for you? … Do you let people into your life enough to help them see that you’re needy?” I’m needy? I’m more than willing to answer a call for help. I’m there. I got this. I’m willing and able to meet it. Place a call for help? No thanks, I’m good. The pride that keeps me distant from God is the same pride that keeps me distant from other people.
We are all residents of a culture that sings the exact opposite song. Believe in yourself, drop people who are needy, make more time for you, better yourself, depend on yourself and you won’t be disappointed, distance yourself from people who get you down, follow your dreams. These messages inundate our hearts and minds on a daily basis and we wonder why we find it hard to pray, or to know people, or to experience community that’s described in Scripture.
And as much as I just wanted to smile and nod and say, “That sermon was so challenging,” I’m reminded of this quote by Leonard Ravenhill, “The question isn’t were you challenged. The question is were you changed.”
Will the preaching of the Word of God challenge me and cause me to be uncomfortable for the duration of its delivery? Or will it leave me changed because I allow it to bump and prod and reshape my heart. Where can we go from here?
If you haven’t listened to Pastor JJ’s sermon, I highly recommend it.
There will be two prayer gatherings today. The first is at 5:00; it will begin with dinner followed by prayer at 5:45. The second is at 7:00 in the library. Come humbly before the Lord acknowledging your dependence on him and learn from others who are doing the same.
Join a small group. If you are already active in a group, consider and pray about how you can use your time to cultivate relationships that display our dependence on one another.
Consider reading the resource Pastor JJ referenced, Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney. It is currently available on Kindle and will be in print on July 31. This book will teach you how to pray Scripture to God, instead of filling every silent moment of your prayer time with all your own needs and requests.
Last, and first, and every step in between, let us pray to our kind Father all the time, with all kinds of requests, with all perseverance, with and for all of the saints. And let us come with large requests and a humility that says, “I CANNOT do it ME self” because our God is a God who hears and desires us to continually commune with him.