Last week we were able to enjoy a little vacation time at the beach with our grandchildren. On one occasion as we ventured out into the ocean the waves were a little rough for my five-year-old grandson. At first, he held tightly to either his daddy or me as the swells of water passed by. Nevertheless, as time went on, he got a little braver. he would let go for a moment, wanting to stand on his own. But as soon as he saw a big wave heading toward him, he would look to grab one of us to help support him or to lift him up high enough so that it wouldn't splash over his head.
Along the way, we tried to teach him how to be a little more independent out in the ocean. We tried to help him learn to watch for the waves and how to time his jumping to ride the swells successfully. He learned to turn sideways to the wave to minimize the impact or to turn his head away from it in order to keep it from splashing in his face. The goal was to make him more confident and less dependent on us. And he certainly made progress to that end during the time we were out there.
While God has chosen to reveal himself to be like a father and we his children in many ways, let's be careful not to think that his goal for us is to get us to stand on our own two feet apart from him. As we take time to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of our nation this weekend we tend to extol the concept of independence. It is something to value and to seek to achieve in many aspects of our lives but not when it comes to our relationship with the Lord.
Too many of us trying to stand on our own strength and wisdom in the ocean of life, we like to have God close by so we can cry out to him or grab hold of him when it looks like a big wave is in danger of overwhelming us. But as long as we can keep our heads above water, we're more content on our own rather than relying on God.
That is not God's intention for us. In some ways, he doesn't want us to stay like little children. He intends for us to grow in wisdom, knowledge, skill, and grace, but at the same time, he desires for us always to recognize our dependence on him. He wants us to trust him and rely on him. He wants us to draw our wisdom, strength and our very life from him. It's not his goal for us to ever let go of his hand and to stand on our own apart from him.
Yes, the Bible says that I can do all things. But don't leave out the rest of the sentence -- "through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). It is only because I'm holding on to Christ that I have the strength to do what's needed. Jesus portrayed this relationship of dependence on him very clearly in John 15. "I am the vine, you are the branches. he who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing" (verse 5). It is only as we stay connected to Christ that we can do anything worthwhile. Without depending on him, we can do nothing. But when we're relying on him, we can do "all things." What a difference!
So let's make sure we're holding on to the great God who can uphold us through all the rough waves of life. And let's celebrate our dependence.
The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Rockdale Evangelical Methodist Church. he can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.