Our second son, Justin, has the most independent spirit of our children. Although he’s very young, he wants to do everything all by himself. As you may expect, this makes for some maddening bouts with this child as he tries repeatedly to do something that he simply can’t do. The kid has some serious resolve too. While he was learning to buckle his car seat, we would for wait through numerous aggravated attempts amidst frustrated groans and tears until we had to step in an do it for him.
On my end, most of the time I just want to help Justin because he’s taking forever, everyone is waiting on him, he’s moving toward meltdown and I want to catch him before he gets there. But there is another reason I should help Justin: because he needs to learn that he is dependent. These times are opportunities to teach my son that God made us dependent creatures, first dependent on him, and second dependent on others, because God has chosen to give us grace through his people.
Although Justin is an unbeliever I want to teach him now what Paul heard from Jesus when he refused to remove his thorn in the flesh: “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). And I want him to understand that the Church has been brought together to build each other up in love (Ephesians 4:11-16). I want him to understand that he is needy and I want him be certain of the One he needs.
Sometimes as parents I think we so badly want our kids to do things for themselves (because they need to get into a good college so they can get a good job so they can live a secure life) that we may unknowingly help to foster a spirit of independence in them, perhaps communicating that dependence is something to be frowned upon.
Don’t get me wrong, I, in no way, want to raise boys who are lazy, free-loading mooches, but neither do I want to raise them in a way that discounts the reality that, as God’s creation, he made us to depend on him (even before the Fall). Justin is in desperate need of God’s grace that only comes through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of his Son, so when he can’t put on his shoes and he doesn’t want anyone to help, it’s a good time to remind him that God made us needy creatures.