“So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36
I grew up as the oldest of three kids with two younger brothers. My father was an avid sports fan and my brothers’ baseball and soccer practices completely dominated the day-to-day schedule. Because my parents insisted on eating dinner together as a family, this often didn’t happen until 9 p.m. at night in the summer. I remember from a very early age that the talk at the dinner table always revolved around sports.
I was eleven years old when I made the conscious decision that I either needed to be involved in sports, or I was going to be left behind. So, one day at dinner I announced that I was signing up for junior high cross country. I had never run a mile in my life up to that point, but I so badly wanted to be part of a team.
I still remember my dad’s response. He laughed involuntary and said, “You’ll never finish the season.”
Well, it was game on. I had to prove him wrong because, even then, I had a stubborn streak. This was back in the 1980s when there was just one junior high team, and I happened to be the only girl. Not only was I competing against seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-grade boys, but I was incredibly slow, even for a girl. I took finishing last to a whole new level— “packing up the truck and turning off the lights” last place. One time I even got lost in the woods because I was so far behind the pack. (This was, to my dismay, my father’s favorite story to tell every family dinner for the next thirty years.)
This was one of the most miserable two months of my life. But of course, I finished the season. Not only was my dad at every meet, but he took me out on a date after the season to celebrate that I made it through.
Dad was a very wise man who was widely respected by many. He also had a stubborn streak a mile wide. He understood that discipline was a rare virtue and the key to achieving success. He always encouraged me to think for myself and then follow through with my decisions. Even though he was often annoyed by my stubbornness, he was proud of the fact that the apple didn’t fall far from the proverbial tree. He used to introduce me to his friends as his “independent contractor.” That was his way of saying, Look out! Don’t get in her way.
It wasn’t until I got older that I recognized there was actually such a thing as an independent contractor. Dad was an accountant, so independent contractor (IC) was a tax filing status. It simply meant that you didn’t work for another organization, and as a result, you were responsible for your own wages, benefits, and taxes.
The fact of the matter is that we’re all independent contractors. No, I’m not talking about your status for filing taxes with the IRS. I’m talking about the fact that we are all responsible for own lives and our own business. As adults we often take our identity from our work or family, but at the end of the day we can’t blame our action (or inaction) on our boss, our spouse, our children, or our parents. “He made me do it,” doesn’t fly when we’re older than ten years old. There is no fall guy to take the blame or credit for our choices. God has given us everything we need to lead successful, full lives on this earth.[i] There are no excuses and no one to blame when we don’t make it happen. We are independent contractors.
It takes a lot of work to be an independent contractor. I think that’s why so many of us abdicate this responsibility to our parents, spouse, or a friend.
But sometimes, the problem isn’t that we don’t make decisions; it’s that we make the wrong ones. Our poor choices can dictate our direction in life by limiting our options. Accumulating debt in early adulthood, for example, can be a spurious factor in determining our path forward. It’s an open secret that higher college debt is a contributing factor to why so many millennials are opting to live at home.
In fact, there are several areas that we must monitor continually if we are going to take control and remain in control of our own lives:
· Our physical health – Controlling our weight and lifestyle choices is critical to living free.
· Our financial independence – Limiting or eliminating our debt to other people and institutions will support our personal freedom.
· Our relationships – Choosing healthy relationships and avoiding toxic ones will limit unnecessary emotional baggage.
· Our emotions – Learning how to keep our emotions balanced and healthy will allow us to pursue our life goals.
These areas are much more interdependent that we may even realize. Poor relationship and money trouble will rot our health quicker than mostly anything else. Medical expenses relating to poor health habits will tax our finances and personal relationships. Broken relationships could potentially endanger our health and bankrupt us financially. Failing to keep our emotions in check could jeopardize our personal and professional relationships. And so, the cycle continues.
But this doesn’t have to happen to you. You are an independent contractor. No other human being owns you or should be allowed to control you. God has given you everything you need to live a productive life, free from the bondage of fear, anxiety, and guilt. This starts with recognizing that we always have a choice, regardless of how dire the situation appears, and how we choose to respond will determine how WE are remembered.