Today’s poem has led me to reflect on the ideas of independence and control. Or perhaps I should say, the illusions of independence and control. Because, in truth, we are all dependent: dependent on one another, on our context, our environment, and ultimately of course dependent on God. This dependence is one of the things that I think has been revealed more starkly than ever by the current pandemic. We who have a reasonable amount of financial stability, and a reasonable degree of health, are perhaps used to thinking of dependence as something that happens to other people. But this year our dependence on a whole host of people – from delivery drivers and shelf stackers to epidemiologists – has been starkly revealed.
And I think that awareness of our interdependence may be one of the gifts of this time. In truth, we have always been dependent on one another. And that interdependence is, I would suggest, part of how we bear the image of God. At the heart of God, the Trinity, is a relationship of radical mutual dependence. When we acknowledge that we cannot be truly independent, when we go further and admit that independence is not really what we are called to, we perhaps move closer to acknowledging the image of the interdependent God in us.
And when we accept our interdependence, we can let go of control. Or rather, again, the illusion of control. The recognition that control is an illusion is beautifully captured by R.S. Thomas in this poem: “it was not / I who lived, but life rather / that lived me.” And, as with accepting our interdependence, accepting our lack of control is something which can bring us closer to being who God calls us to be. That we are not in control of our own destiny is a fundamental part of our creatureliness. And accepting our own creatureliness is a vital aspect of understanding our relationship with God.
This year for #AdventBookClub we are reading “Frequencies of God: walking through Advent with R.S. Thomas” by Carys Walsh. Join the conversation on Twitter using #AdventBookClub or on Facebook by searching for the group ‘Advent Book Club’.