I cling to a common illusion: I am an independent and self-sufficient woman. And then reality intervenes and reminds me I’m only independent and self-sufficient as long as nothing goes wrong—as long as my car doesn’t start making “that” noise, or until I need my husband’s paycheck as well as mine to cover the mortgage and the bills.
Does that sound familiar?
I’ve carried this illusion of independence for years. It’s a choice many of us make in the face of disappointment, rejection, heartbreak. You know your story; here’s mine. I knew I was on my own when the bullet that tore into Daddy’s brain shattered the family into a million bleeding pieces. With Mom lost in her own grief, I scraped together as many of those pieces as I could and began pretending to be a whole human being. My mother’s mantra became mine as well. You can’t depend on anybody. Everybody will desert you, abandon you, reject you, let you down. They will all leave, just like Daddy did.
And so I sought rejection, as if to prove that Mom was right. I was a fiercely independent single mother for almost 10 years, and pathetically dependent on drugs and alcohol for more than half that time. It took six long years of increasing insanity before I came to the point where, as they say in step 1, I realized I was in control of nothing. I got clean and sober—and promptly declared, “I’ll take it from here.”
I call it my “Leo Marvin Syndrome,” from the movie “What About Bob?” Bob, the neurotic, therapist-stalking patient, follows his pompous psychiatrist, Doctor Leo Marvin, to the Marvin’s summer home at Lake Winnipesaukee. Halfway through the movie, Bob is able to help Siggy, Dr. Marvin’s son, overcome his fear and dive off the dock into the lake. Leo, seeing Bob succeed where he had repeatedly failed, comes barreling down the stairs and out of the house yelling, “I’ll take it from here! I’ll take it from here!” Of course, his attempt to regain control backfires and sets in motion the chain of events that leads to Leo’s breakdown a few reels later.
How many times have I done that in my own life?
I crawl into Alcoholics Anonymous, learn that I’m best off when I depend on God, get my life back together, and tell God, “Thank you very much; I’ll take it from here.” And proceed to make a mess of things again. I crawl into church, get my life back together, and tell God again (and again and again), “Thank you very much; I’ll take it from here.”
Apparently, I’m not the only one. Paul noticed the very same pattern: “You foolish Galatians! Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:1,3) He was speaking to a group of people who were vacillating between walking in the Spirit and reverting back to what they already knew: trying to ensure their own salvation through their own efforts.
Doesn’t that also sound familiar? We all face the same choice every day. Do I want to rely on my old habits, or do I choose to rely on the God Who wants to do so much more for me? Is it better to be the independent, self-reliant hot mess of a human being or a God-dependent, Spirit-filled follower of Jesus? What if I replace my mother’s mantra with a powerful four word prayer to the One Who will never abandon me, reject me, or let me down?
I need you, God.
Here’s my broken heart. I can’t mend it by myself; I need you, God. Here’s the relationship—with a spouse, a child, a parent, a friend—that breaks that heart. I can’t fix it; I need you, God. Here are the circumstances that are wearing me down. I can’t change them; I need you, God.
Whatever you are facing, you don’t have to face it alone. Say it aloud, say it to a friend, let it be your mantra. Try it and let me know what happens.
I need you God.