“I do it—me!” Each of my kids around the age of two or three hit a stage when they dug in their heels and wanted to click themselves into their car seats without any help. What normally would take a matter of seconds often ended up taking what felt like hours. Frustration became tears as their tiny hands did not possess enough strength or coordination to maneuver the plastic clips and buckles.
In today’s reading from Paul’s letter, I find myself wondering why the believers in Galatia would return to the ways of bondage under the law. Why would they subject themselves to seek justification through their own efforts instead of through faith? How did they choose to turn back to “weak and bankrupt elemental forces” (Galatians 4:9)? And then I remember how I am prone to follow down the same path, insisting like an independent toddler, “I do it—me!”
Six years ago I found myself flat on my back in our master bedroom memorizing the quirky design of the popcorn ceiling. Surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation for breast cancer treatment took my body to lows I had never experienced before. I could no longer function in ministry or contribute to help our family. I felt guilt and shame over my lack of productivity. With “serving God” removed from my to-do list, I struggled and I questioned if God really loved and accepted me apart from my good works.
I found this old adage to be true: the longest distance is between the head and the heart.
Perhaps the Galatians became mislead because of ignorance, or perhaps those tangible works of observing days and months and seasons and years (Galatians 4:10) provided a false sense of security and control.
As I reflect on my own struggles, I realize the “I do it—me!” approach actually felt good because the transaction of works fed my pride. Grace and freedom through Jesus initially felt risky and uncertain because my faith no longer rested in my controlling ways but in Christ.
Pride and self-sufficiency leads to living out our faith in our own efforts. Even Abraham, our hero of the faith from Hebrews 11, struggled with this. When it looked like God might not give Abraham and Sarai the son He promised them, Abraham arranged to conceive a child with his wife’s servant, Hagar. His attempt at self-sufficiency produced a lineage of slavery, while the child born of God’s promise became the lineage of Christ (Genesis 16).
Left to ourselves and left to our self-centered ways, we are without hope. However, the sweetness of the gospel restores and makes right, adopting us into the lineage of those who are free. True freedom is found in our relationship with Jesus.
Paul says it so well in his letter to the Romans:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did; sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Laws might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
- Romans 8:1-4
While the natural development of my kids is to increase and grow in their abilities and to function independently (I’m happy to inform you, two of the three kids drive and we no longer possess car seats!), maturity in the Christian life actually looks like increased faith and dependence.
We begin our relationship with God by faith, we are justified by faith, and we are filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit by faith.
Father, may our lives be marked by increased faith and dependence on the One who knows us and calls us by name. Amen.
Vivian Mabuni is an author and speaker, and a sushi, white Christmas lights, coffee-with-friends-lover. She has been on staff with Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) for 26 years and serves with Epic Movement, the Asian-American ministry of Cru. Vivian is the author of Warrior In Pink: A Story of Cancer, Community and the God Who Comforts.