"God promised to make you free. He never promised to make you independent." -Madeleine L'engle

Independence in Christ?

“God promised to make you free. He never promised to make you independent.”

–Madeleine L’Engle

The little girl I keep on a weekly basis is three and-a-half years old. She has a bushel of golden curls, lively pink cheeks and a wonderful imagination. Her family just moved into a new home where, for the first time in her memory, she has a large backyard to explore. I love to watch her journey through “the woods” (which is really just a small clump of trees) and make discovery upon discovery. She is fascinated by every insect, mushroom and wildflower.

The best part of this new space is that my young charge feels that she is really on her own, independently exploring new territories. The feeling isn’t entirely artificial. After all, she does have more independence here than she’s had in her previous yards, due to the nice big fence and fact that she’s getting older every day! Recently, after a particularly adventurous hour in “the woods,” which included catching a large grasshopper and making a home for him and collecting a handful of doodlebugs and releasing them back into nature, our young naturalist asked if she could ride her tricycle down the street.

There was a long moment at the end of the driveway as I surveyed the situation and weighed the risks. I felt like Bambi’s poor mother, venturing into the meadow. Two blue eyes looked up from the red tricycle and two chubby hands gripped the handlebars. What would my answer be?

Finally, I decided to let her ride her tricycle beside me as we crossed the empty street and moseyed toward a cul-de-sac. She even exhibited great steering skills by keeping one hand on the handlebars and holding one of my hands with the other. After a short time, she exhibited her “threenager” tendencies and told me she was bored. We went back to her house and read books.

Why am I telling you this story? To explain a very important lesson Ms. L’Engle taught me. I once pitched a book to three major publishing houses about feminism and legalism in the church. It was during research for this book that I came across the quote from above and realized that freedom and independence are two very different things. Sure, we often use them interchangeably, but life would make a lot more sense if we stopped butchering our language! There is freedom in Christ, that’s for sure, but is there independence in Christ?

Webster’s dictionary describes “independence” as “freedom from outside control or support” and “freedom” as “liberation from slavery or restraint.” Independence has a lot to do with freedom, you may even say it’s a type of freedom, but they are not the same thing. Jesus makes us free (free indeed!) We are born as slaves to sin and death and Jesus breaks those bonds. What He does not do is send us floating into oblivion to fend for ourselves. This would be more of an agnostic view.

"God promised to make you free. He never promised to make you independent." -Madeleine L'engle

The little girl I babysit is not a slave. As a matter of fact, she lives a particularly happy life and is always loved, cared for and respected. For the most part, she is free from danger, worry and harm, but she is far from independent. As a matter of fact, she is free because she is dependent.

If she had no parent or guardian, she would be the most independent three and-a-half year old ever. She would not have the luxury of counting on three square meals a day with snacks between. She would not expect her mornings to begin in a warm bed or climax with a bubble bath. She would no longer be free from danger. Any number of things could wrong: kidnapping, untreated disease, malnutrition. She would no longer be free from worry, for she’d have to constantly be begging or foraging for her own food and searching for safe places to sleep. She would almost definitely come to great harm.

This all sounds a bit preposterous, doesn’t it? A toddler fending her for herself? Well, it is preposterous. And so is the idea of any human being, no matter how well trained in wilderness survival, being entirely independent. We cannot and should not be independent of God. The Bible describes Him as our Father. Fathers may teach skills such as making a sandwich and making one’s own bed, but they don’t expect their children to be truly independent of them. We provide for our own children, protect them and care for them. Our Heavenly Father is the same way.

He wants freedom for His kids. Freedom from sin, bondage, death and everything that goes along with it. He wants us to live full lives, giving the worries over to Him. He doesn’t want to see us come to harm. But that’s exactly what would happen if we were independent and, to an extent, often does happen when we try to live independently.

Freedom and independence are not the same thing. Be free and rest in the Lord, thankful to have a good Father to depend on.


  1. Never thought of this, the two words being confused.
    But man is it true! I must agree with Jessiqua, this is definetly one of my favorites!

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