“Beware of refusing to go to the funeral of your own independence.”
I highlighted this line in my book years ago. I knew there was something in it for me, something that I needed to understand, but it always eluded me. But this year as I read that line, I understood. And I offer this requiem for the funeral of my independence.
It died years ago the moment I gave myself and my life to God. When my desires became His desires. And when I crucified my old self with him and arose fresh and new born. Alas, even after rising anew, I snuck back to the cross and reclaimed those parts of me that I didn’t want to let go of. They were dead, to be sure, but I wasn’t ready to let go of them. Independence was the first one I reached for. And I continued as if it was not dead.
Of course my reclaiming it did not resurrect Independence. It was dead, is dead, whether I acknowledged the fact or not. Whether I chose to attend the funeral or not. But I felt more comfortable having it with me. And I thought that somehow, by not admitting that it was dead and reattaching it to my reborn self, that it would be resurrected too.
Needless to say, this isn’t what happened. My Independence hung off of me like a revolting dead thing.
(I have a mental picture of Huck Finn swinging a dead cat.
“What’s that you got there, Huck?”
“Say, what’s Dead Independence good for, Huck?”)
Having reclothed myself with my Independence, I went about my new life with great fervor and good intentions. I didn’t use my Independence for “bad” things, like I did in my old life. No, I was a new person! I used it for “good” things. I used it to buy spiritual books that I couldn’t afford. I used it to make gifts for loved ones that I didn’t have time to make. I used it to write moralistic homilies that I didn’t understand. Independence might have looked different in my life, but it still stank.
I have carried around my Independence with me for years, doing all kinds of good things that God never asked me to do. As if He was an AP English teacher handing out extra credit.
If my Independence had taken a different form it would have been easy to condemn and put off. If it had looked like pettiness, or pride, or meanness, or selfishness, I would have been first at the funeral to mourn its death. Most of us are willing to attend the funerals of things that we wish were dead.
But my Independence took a more “helpful” form. It looked like support, love, compassion, sharing. It was meals delivered, gifts bought, hospitality offered. And weren’t these the very things I had been reborn to?
“It is the things that are right and noble and good from the natural
standpoint that keep us back from God’s best. To discern that natural
virtues antagonize surrender to God is to bring our soul into the very
center of its greatest battle…It is the good that hates the best.”
Even if it is something good. Even if it’s something right. If whatever it is arises from my own Independence, it is not God’s best. By choosing to do the thing that originates from Independence, I am not choosing His best.
The meals were cooked and delivered with love, but I fed my own family cold cereal for dinner because there wasn’t time left to cook for them. The gifts were bought and given with the purest intentions, but our mortgage payment was late because there wasn’t enough money for both.
There is good, and there is best. And today I’m laying my Independence to rest, and so too all of the good things that I do out of it. I’m choosing to seek God’s best for me.
Which might mean less “good” for others, which sounds so wrong and makes me want to take up the dead cat again!
But I trust that God’s best for me, is God’s best for everyone. And so I attend the funeral.