Good old Thomas Merton, he certainly "gets it", doesn't he?
The theme of interdependence is one that is being regularly discussed in our household these days in an intentional, meaningful way. When you have special needs young adults, the way you envision adulthood often changes as for some, independence is out of reach, and for others it is delayed.
Interestingly, as we have come to some clear conclusions about the future of some of our kids, and are trying to wipe away the haze as we gaze through the looking glass for the other kids, there has been a growing understanding for each of us that has altered how we view the world in general.
As Americans, we celebrate quite the opposite, don't we? Living in a "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" kind of world, the idea of actually being interdependent is anathema and those who espouse it are viewed as being weak and incapable of making it on their own.
Ahhhh...but as Christians, isn't the idea of interdependence actually the entire goal of the Gospel??? That we are all connected to one another and to God, and through that connection we find real relationship and real meaning? Isn't it sort of counter to all Christian teaching to think of ourselves as islands and "every man for himself"?
When one looks at our culture today, we see a world filled with disconnection and loneliness as we all cling to our pride of being able to "make it on our own", and yet where is that really getting us? We are a nation of independent people living in desperate isolation, despite the supposed increase in connection and "friends" on social media. This is not what we need, what we humans yearn for to the core of our soul is to be known, to be understood, to be cared about and accepted, not to be artificially "friended".
Someday, we might all understand that there is a middle ground, a center point between dependence and independence, and that is interdependence. Just as our politics can't seem to allow for moderate perspectives, our relationships can't seem to allow for a balanced blend of independence and intentional connectedness...we are an "all or nothing" sort of folk.
Our family will likely live together as a complete unit for a few more years, and we will also just as likely have to suffer the judgment of others because of it. What intrigues me as we have already been pushed for Matt, who just turned 18 in June, to "strike out on his own in the world" is how many adults these days just don't get that the world is not what it was in our own youth. As this CBS news report states, nearly 33% of young adults ages 18-34 now live with their parents, a number that seems to shock some but doesn't surprise me at all. When one looks at the income figures alone it is easy to see why...then throw in massive college debt, and you have a recipe for communal living.
But is that really all that bad? Is it so terrible that families cut costs by living together longer, as is the norm in many other nations today? Is it a crime that a young adult child and their parents agree to share responsibilities, work, and finances so that ALL succeed? Why is it that a child headed to college can have all their expenses covered by parents and loans, thereby still really not even close to achieving real "independence" and yet a young adult who elects to remain home and build skills, gain a foothold on saving for a new business, a paid off car, an emergency fund, etc. is somehow viewed as "a sponge"??
We tend to think of families as a group of people that remain together for a finite time that then spreads out and disconnects, but why?
Why not use the resources of all for the betterment of all? Why not have interconnected long term inter-generational relationships where grandparents help take care of grandchildren, and children take care of aging parents? Where the weaknesses and strengths of one another combine to help all succeed and lead happier, less lonely lives? Hmmm...sounds like an earlier version of America, doesn't it?
We have one son who will likely never be capable of living fully independently, and others who are in need of a few more protective years under the wings of their protective parents to feel secure enough to fly off on their own due to having a family for less than a decade. We have others who have goals and need time to study and work hard to achieve them. Not a single LaJoy is lazy, they all contribute. We are a content and cheerful bunch, as Olesya noted in a recent piece of writing when she said, "We never outgrew the kid laughter and smiles because this family always finds ways to be happy. All these memories are surrounded by my loving family, to whom closeness, understanding, and laughter are important."
And isn't that really all that matters, that we are surrounded by those who love us, who understand us, and who laugh and occasionally cry with us?
I'll take interdependence any day over independence, for interdependence is where my faith and real life intersect.