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The Problem of Self-Sufficiency

Beth Demme Blog 3 Comments

One of my daughter’s favorite refrains when she was a toddler was “Do it my big-self, Mommy.” It was a phrase that simultaneously made me happy (so proud!) and terrified (she’s not ready!).

If you’ve spent any time around the preschool scene, you know toddlers can go from clingy to independent in an instant. It’s fun to watch them as they gain confidence exploring the world. It’s also heartwarming to be the one who provides the security of a hug when their confidence falters.

What isn’t fun or heartwarming is that moment you sense danger but your toddler takes action before you can. That flash of time when they pull away and tumble down the last step or move toward the electrical outlet with super-human speed.

Sometimes a toddler’s self-sufficiency gets her into trouble.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes it’s like this with me and God.
I’m the self-sufficient toddler. I burst out on my own, full of confidence and ready for adventure. I fail to pause and check in with the much more experienced grown-up who loves me. When it all goes wrong, I throw a tantrum or crumple in a heap.

But I’m not a toddler. I’m, ahem, 38 years old (thank-you-very-much). I should know better, right?

The thing is, self-sufficiency isn’t all bad. I just take it too far sometimes and I try to live without God.

There are plenty of things I can, and should, do for myself.

God created me to be a capable human being. He’s given me a strong mind AND opposable thumbs!

The problem is I sometimes sacrifice my relationship with God by saying, “Hey God, I do it my big-self!” I don’t always consciously choose this, I just move through my day without thinking about how to engage God.

Whether I forget to rely on God, or stubbornly choose not to, the result is the same — I deny myself the opportunity to Live Loved.

The thing is, I know I can rely on God.

At my 8th Grade Confirmation, my pastor gave me 1 Peter 5:7 as my guiding verse: “Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.” This verse provided solace to me a few months later when my oldest brother died unexpectedly. I have cast my anxieties on God many, many times since then.

I take great comfort in the realization that God knows the plans he has for me, “plans to give [me] a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

I understand why Proverbs says “those who trust in their own wits are fools” (Proverbs 28:26 NRSV) and “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.” (Proverbs 3:5.) My own life experience has shown me that God’s ways really are better than my own.

It seems like knowing this should make me smarter than a toddler.

Instead, I’m like a toddler who says, “Thanks for the thumbs, God, now I can do anything! I think I’ll stick this one in the electrical outlet and see what happens.”

When I don’t rely on God, my own capabilities become stumbling blocks in my life. My thumbs are useful, unless I’m using them to get electrocuted.

These days I’m keeping Psalm 62:8 in mind: “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”

Psalm 62:8 via
(This is the post-it I have on the wall by my computer.)

God wants to be our refuge. It warms his heart to be the one who provides the security of a hug when our self-sufficiency gets out of whack and makes us think we don’t need him after all.

I can Live Loved, I just have to remember how.

How about you? Are you a stubbornly independent toddler? Are you letting God be your refuge? How do you use your gifts without allowing them to separate you from God? Tell me about it on Facebook or Twitter or send me an e-mail. I’d love to hear from you!


Comments 3

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