Coop's Column - Declaration of Dependence

To be human is to be in need—in need of God and of one another. And to remain fully human—indeed, to flourish in it—requires that we stay in touch with, remain keenly aware of, that need.

How vividly I recall my conversation, over 20 years ago, with Dr. Kalman Uzacszy, aged former headmaster of the Christian school in Sarospatak, Hungary. As we strolled along the streets near his home, he was full of deep-down joy and gratitude to God. After 50 long years of enduring communist siege and oppression, Hungarian Christians had regained their freedom, and his beloved school had been returned to its rightful Christian owners. But he was somewhat concerned, too, about what a free and easier lifestyle might do to Christians. I shall not forget his next words: "I hope that we never become as successful as you Americans. That wouldn’t be good for us." Then he added: "We Magyar Christians can survive almost anything—we have done so for hundreds of years. But I fear that we cannot survive success."

"Successful" human beings slip into an attitude of thinking that they need no one else—not fellow human beings, not even God himself. External success breeds within them a spirit of arrogant independence.

The tiny land of biblical Israel, about 50 miles wide and 150 miles long, was mixture of vast geographical differences. Its southeastern quadrant near the Dead Sea—the "land of milk," they called it—was barren and sparse. There the soil was rocky, and the rain scarce. Daily life was harsh, unpredictable, and lonely in the land of milk. Shepherds eked out a Spartan existence along the so thin boundary between life and death.

What a contrast to life in the "land of honey," the northwest quadrant which bordered the Mediterranean. There the land was fertile, and rain and sunshine aplenty produced lush crops—figs, barley, pomegranates, grapes, alfalfa. Life was smooth, predictable, and crowded in the land of honey. Farmers, merchants, tradesmen, and their families lived lavishly and well.

By droves people fled from the land of milk and toward the land of honey. Of course they did. Who of us wouldn’t prefer a tranquil, predictable, and prosperous life to a difficult one?

But let me ask another question: In which sector—"milk" or "honey"—do you suppose the Israelites had a keener awareness of being in desperate need of God and of one another? The answer: 90 percent of the direct encounters between God and his people took place in the sparse land of milk.

To be human is to be in need—in need of God and of one another. And to remain fully human—indeed, to flourish in it—requires that we stay in touch with, remain keenly aware of, that need.

Actor Clint Eastwood once said, "A man’s gotta know his limitations." How true. That’s why it was vital for dwellers in the land, both the "land of honey" and the "land of milk," to keep up the practice of "going to the sanctuary"—of "going to church," so to speak. For there, before God’s face and in company with fellow human beings, they heard these thunderingly important words: "Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." They were reminded that no matter from where they had come, no matter how important—or unimportant—they considered themselves to be, they were dependent upon God. There they could redeclare their dependence.

No less than Israelites (and Hungarians), I, too, need the reminder of my need for God amid my life’s circumstances. Which is one of the reasons that God keeps beckoning me to "enter the sanctuary" of his presence, there to declare my dependence upon him.

Prayer

Other refuge have I none; hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, O, leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed. All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of thy wing.

 

Other refuge have I none; hangs my helpless soul on Thee

(Charles Wesley)

 

Comments