“Westerners are just so… independent!” I laughed in agreement with my Japanese friend and said, “Yes, it’s so true!” We were talking about friendships, parenting, and relating to life. She couldn’t understand how western mum’s were expected to be super-mums and figure out how to do everything on their own! “Saying you need help or you’re not coping seems to be a sign of weakness in your culture, but to us you would never be expected to “do-it-all”!” She was so right.
My husband used to tell me that same thing all the time: “You’re just so independent!”. I used to get defensive and tell him all the reasons why that was a good thing. I didn’t understand why, when he was looking for our babies clothes, he would always ask me “which drawer are his sweaters in again?” I would tell him “why don’t you just look? You know where all his clothes are kept!” One day I asked him about this. “Why is it that you always ask me questions that you could actually just solve yourself? If you want to know if we have any milk, why don’t you just look in the fridge yourself?” He said something very interesting that changed my perspective… “In Asian culture, we like helping each other, interacting with each other, and depending on each other, not always on ourselves. Does it frustrate you so much to have to interact with me just a little bit over these things? Isn’t the relationship more important to you than just having the problem solved efficiently?”
Wow. That got me thinking. Being an over-analyzer, I started analyzing myself, my ways of thinking and of doing things, and what my culture had taught me. Then I started thinking about what the bible had taught me about God. I thought of Jesus teaching us to pray even though God already knows our needs. I thought of Paul telling us to pray about all things… it seemed that communicating wasn’t something God saw as irritating or inefficient, or a sign of weakness! I thought of verses like Psalm 91:15 “When they call on me, I will answer. I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them”. It didn’t say “When they call on me, I will tell them to first do the research themselves, and then think of a way to sort it out, and then do their best to solve the problem alone.” I thought of the amount of times I came across verses like “Depend on Me, trust in Me, ask and you will receive, learn from Me, rest in Me, do not lean on your own understanding, cry out to Me, call on Me, walk with Me”. It seemed to be all about… relationship! I started to think about the way I was parenting… was I asking my kids to be too independent, when maybe they were created to need me more than I thought?
In our Western culture, we love independence and efficiency… we sleep train our babies so they can go to sleep without us, teach kids to self-soothe, tell them to just get back up if they hurt themselves, teach them not to expect sympathy, not to ask, not to bother us when we’re busy, we love Do-It-Yourself, Do-It-By-Yourself, Self-Help, and now we’re inventing ways of doing everything ourselves online so we don’t have to rely on a “person” because machines and automated services are just so much more… efficient! Of course, there are many things we must learn to do ourselves and take responsibility for… I sure don’t want to be spoon-feeding my kids when they’re 15!
But how about our emotional side? How about our children’s emotional side? Our spiritual needs? Our social needs? Jesus and the disciples lived in constant community. As far as I can tell, they shared almost everything together! Jesus also depended completely on His Heavenly Father. He said Himself that He does nothing and says nothing that the Father hasn’t given Him to say and do. What dependence! And what a great model for us! We need our Heavenly Father, and we need each other! In fact, I came across some of the “one another” scriptures in a book recently for living in community with each other as the body of Christ:
“Accept one another” (Rom 15:7), “agree with one another” (1Cor. 1:10; Phil. 4:2), “bear with one another” (Col. 3:13), “consider one another as better” (Phil. 2:3), “carry one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2), “offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9), “fellowship with one another” (1 John 1:7), “serve one another with your gifts” (1 Cor. 12:7; 1 Peter 4:10), “look after one another’s interests” (Phil. 2:4), “serve one another” (Gal. 5:13), and many, many more! He’s given us this wonderful body of Christ, and we need one another!
One of my favourite verses has come to be this one:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
What a load off my back! I don’t have to rely on my own strength, my own smarts, or my own guesses about what’s going to happen! He is never too busy for me, and whenever I need to just feel Him near, or need wisdom, or need…. anything!… He wants to hear from me, and He is always there.