The Myth of Independence

"If I say, 'I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,' then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” Jeremiah 20:9

I've often preached about independence, or the myth thereof. Who among us can truly claim independence? Although many folks tend to think they are independent, I would argue differently... especially since breaking my dominant arm on vacation in August. In the words of John Donne, “no man is an island.” No man. No woman. No pastor. No nation. We are all connected. We need each other.

Let me tell you about my last six weeks: I am used to living alone, so when the orthopaedist suggested that was not a good idea, I had to change my outlook drastically. To hear that it would be 6 to 8 or even 10 weeks before I could drive again--or even contemplate beginning physical therapy was a shock. Beyond just the pain in my arm and shoulder, I would need to rely on people for everything I had long taken for granted, like bathing, washing my hair, dressing, feeding myself (I am so very not ambidextrous!), or any other daily activity. Even my blog is being written using the dictation feature on Microsoft Word. (Full disclosure: when you swear out loud, the letters become asterisks! Not that I would know....)

I fell on my arthritic shoulder, which already needed to be replaced at some point in the future. Now that may take precedence over my knee replacement which is already several years overdue. I have been grumpy, gripey, guilt-ridden, and drowning in self-pity. But hardship can teach us many things. Correction: God can teach us many things in the midst of hardship.

Before the pandemic, I was invited to lead the United Methodist Women’s annual retreat. Interdependance was one of the themes of the day. I asked the women in attendance to name the persons who had been instrumental in getting them to Camp Manidokan that morning. Other than those who had ridden with someone else, most answered “I got myself here all by myself!” Then I shared with them the village of people required to get me up and out that morning, including the persons who picked, shipped, and ground my coffee; the inventor of hair dye; my parents--without whom I wouldn't “be” anywhere. Unless you raise your own sheep (or grow your own cotton), spin your own thread, weave it into cloth, and sew your own clothing--or design and build your own internal combustion engine and automobile--you would be sitting naked in the dirt!

Sad that it takes an accident or tragedy to remind us how much we truly need each other, or how global our “village” truly is. Watching Hurricane Ian rage its way through Florida is a good example. Imagine, a Republican governor working with a Democratic president for the good of the people! We shouldn't be shocked by something so obvious, should we? I suppose that's why In movies the world only seems to come together when we're being attacked by aliens from another galaxy.

This coming Sunday, October 2nd, we will celebrate World Communion Sunday. We will celebrate our unity with Christ’s people across the globe as we experience Christ’s presence and power freely given to us as grumpy, gripey, guilt-ridden and drowning in self-pity as we often are. May God grant us grace to understand our connectedness with them, and with all people of every (or no) faith, knowing and trusting that every human person is precious in God's sight.

My thanks to the Epworth congregation for the loving care shown to me as my arm heals. My thanks for the rides, the meals, the cards, the chocolate! My thanks to God for reminding me that I am not alone, nor was I meant to be. We need each other, we are called to love each other, we cannot survive without each other.