As much as I try not to be super self-reliant, I have been shaped by these types of phrases: “Pull yourself up by your boot straps”, “Work harder so you can succeed and get ahead”, “If you want something done, you have to do it yourself”, etc... The focus in all of these is on the individual; it is a self-sufficiency model. One of the conclusions I probably made at a young age was that I didn't need anyone. While being at seminary, when I lived in community, I learned to open up and let others in, and I began to grow in this area. I realized powerfully that we, as the Body of Christ, are to rely on one other, for edification, even for our resources, but especially to build the Kingdom. For the last 3.5 years I have been living in a “collective” culture. This means that this society, while I'm sure has been slightly influenced by Western culture, is a society who encourages members to rely on each other.
When I arrived in this culture I felt like a baby. I was starting from scratch. I studied the Croatian language at a University, but I soon realized I needed to rely on others if I was going to really learn and use this language. I began meeting people, but I realized that I was afraid to really depend on others emotionally and in other ways. But when I began to open myself up to others in fearless ways and depend on others, God showed me the beauty and richness of relationships that rely on one other.
And yet another growing experience has been being on our Deputation Tour in the states, where we literally have had to rely on the hospitality of others for 3 months straight: for our car, for our housing, for chances to speak at churches, for food, etc... People have invited us into their homes, paid for meals, watched our children, paid for hotel rooms, looked at our car to make sure it was safe, gave generously without any strings attached, and the list goes on.
This experience has encouraged me to be o.k. with accepting love and gifts from others, to have faith in the things I cannot see, and that it's o.k. to really rely on others. A super self-sufficient person, like me, going into this experience wanted to plan out all the details, all the services, all the times, all the meetings, all the notes, all the contacts and perhaps subconsciously so that I wouldn't have to rely too much on others. But what I quickly learned was that so many things were out of my control anyway and I had no choice but to rely on others; to rely on the grace they gave, on the generous giving of their time or money or privacy. We were blessed time and time again by others.
I've re-learned how important hospitality is, and it has encouraged me to open myself and home to others and continue to shed my individualistic exterior. I'm thankful I've allowed God to use others to change me, and I want God to continue to use me to change others and with them together experience the fullness of Christ.
To all we saw, visited, spent the night with, hung out with, lived with, to all who fed us, cared for us, and to all the churches that welcomed us in as one of your own; thank you for your hospitality.