“This command I gave them, ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.’ Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but in the stubbornness of their evil will, they walked in their own counsels, and looked backward rather than forward.” – Jeremiah 7:23-24
A lot of us claim to believe in God, but then act as if everything depended on us, on our efforts and wisdom, on our ability to keep all the little planets of our concerns in perfect orbit around the great blasting sun of our inner control freak. Meanwhile, we are white-knuckling it all the way. Nadia Bolz Weber calls this “functional atheism.”
Some verbal hallmarks that you are a functional atheist: “I can handle this all by myself.” “Don’t worry about me.” “Yup, just fine.”
One of the great sicknesses of the 21st century is our solitariness, our isolation from each other and from God. We are allergic to asking for help and have a pathological fear of being thought “needy.” Some of us will walk in our own counsel right off a cliff rather than show our vulnerability to another human being, or turn to God in prayer.
Here’s a news flash: You’re just as God made you, and that includes being needy. Control freaks, perfectionists and fiercely independent types are not of much use to the God who made us to fit together, interlocking parts that hold the whole Creation in place.
God, I know my strong-man biceps are puny compared to what You can bench-press on a bad day with a migraine. Take away my shame that I really can’t handle this all by myself, and use my neediness to show the world what Your power is really like. Amen.
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister of the First Church of Berkeley, California, and the author of the best-selling Real Good Church and Standing Naked Before God.