For Molly’s third birthday we took her sledding at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center. At LCLC there is an epic hill that ends at the lake. In the summer, it’s a bear to walk up and down. In the winter, it’s a sledding paradise. The excitement in Molly’s eyes was apparent as we stood on the top of the hill looking down toward the frozen water. She knew what to do and couldn’t wait to do it.
“I’m going by myself,” she boldly declared as only three-year olds can.
“Okay, Molly. Sit here and hold on,” I replied as I placed her on the sled. “Ready? One… Two…”
“NOOO!!! I’m going by myself with Daddy!” (Cue my joy.)
This interaction at the top of a snowy hill reminded me of two stories (stick with me here, I am about to get really nerdy). The first story is from the Lord of the Rings. In the LOTR, the main character, Frodo, is entrusted with the responsibility of taking the ring to Mordor (think hell on earth) to destroy it. Early on in his journey, already tired and frustrated, he turns to his friend, Samwise, and says, “Go back, Sam. I’m going to Mordor alone.” Sam replies, “Of course you are! And I’m going with you.” The other story is from the classic Christmas movie, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. In the film, a character named Hermey (the elf who wants to be a dentist) runs away. In the wilderness he bumps into Rudolph. They’re both struggling with their uniqueness and convince themselves that the best thing for each of them is to be independent. Upon crossing paths, Hermey suggests to Rudolph, “Hey… what do you say we both be independent together.”
We are not created to be by ourselves, alone or, even, independent. In fact, when God created the first human and placed him in a perfect creation, God looked at the situation and said, “This is not good. Creation is no longer perfect. It is not okay for a human to be alone. I’m going to make another.” (my paraphrase, obviously. Read Genesis 2 for the official transcript.)
God created us for community. We are wired for relationships and connectedness. It is not good to be alone. We are created and called to be “Samwise Christians” – the sort of people who say to one another, “Of course you’re going alone, and I’m going with you.” In this country where independence and self-reliance are lauded as the highest of ideals, we are invited to remember that people need people. It is not independence, but interdependence that truly reflects who God has created us to be.
Now, to continue down the path of nerd-iness, allow me to quote Peter Steinke who writes on systems theory in congregations. Steinke writes, “To be separate and to be close are basic needs. One is personal, the other relational.” We are created to be by ourselves with each other (Molly-Daddy). We are called to go alone with one another (Frodo-Samwise). We are called to be independent together (Hermey-Rudolph).
We are called to ride down the hill of life with our kids. We are called to walk toward Mordor with our brothers and sisters. We are called to be independent together across the wilderness of this world. And above all, remember, even when you’re by yourself… you’re by yourself with Daddy. God our Father.
In the Way,