It’s amazing what can happen when you have that light-bulb moment.  It wasn’t that I came up with some great idea, but I finally grasped a concept that I had unknowingly been acting out without realizing it. 

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan to participate in a conference put on by the Disability Concerns branch of my church denomination.  Advocates for people with disabilities along with pastors and other representatives came together to talk about inclusion for people with disabilities in local churches.  I was simply honored to attend the conference in that I had only been declared a Disability Advocate for my church rather recently.  I was there to learn and absorb everything to the best of my ability, and that’s exactly what I did. 

On Friday evening, we had an informal time of question and answer, and many attendees gave remarks about why they were attending the conference and what they hoped to learn in the remaining sessions.  One young woman talked about interdependence, and the concept struck a chord within me. 

For so long, I had seemingly gone about my life as a person with a disability, fighting battles of independence.  I had attained the necessary connections to go to college and then struggled my way through difficult classes and striving to graduate.  Then I made it my mission to obtain employment, and although the journey to find a job stretched over five years, I finally became Worship and Music Director at FRC.  And then there was Independence Day— the day I moved into my own apartment.  I have since relocated due to health issues, but even so, I have my own place and I am living independently, which was exactly what I wanted.

In my work at YLF, I seek to encourage our delegates/ campers that they can make a difference in today’s society— that they can be independent and make their own decisions.  In today’s disability culture, it is all about obtaining independence and self-determination.  The goal is to do as much as a person is able to accomplish on their own.  Relying on others is not living independently… or so I have been told. 

This idea of interdependence was a refreshing concept, although I realized the idea had already crossed my path.  This past March, I coordinated a Disability Awareness Sunday at FRC, and I preached a sermon on 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul addresses the Corinthian church regarding each person being an indispensable part of Christ’s body.  Although I used the word “indispensable,” not once did I comprehend that the members of Christ’s body are interdependent on each other.

This relationship of interdependence is a common factor in my life on a daily basis.  Because I cannot drive, I am reliant on others to make sure I am where I need to be at certain times.  I am dependent on Colleen, our church’s sound tech., and the members of OneVoice to drive me to church on Sunday mornings when the weather does not allow me to walk.  But as we come together to worship, OneVoice and the others on the praise team are dependent on me to lead the congregation in worship.  Without my presence at the piano or singing lead vocals, the music would not come together.  I am dependent on others for transportation needs, while the congregation is dependent on me to lead the music.  It is a relationship that exists to better the whole of the church.  We all work together to make a Sunday morning service happen, therefore being interdependent on each other.

My experience that weekend was a lesson in dependence.  I waited for the airport shuttle, not sure how the process worked; I waited for an attendant to walk me through the airport; then I allowed a fellow passenger to carry my bag through the airport as I went to meet the representative from the conference center; later, I found myself dependent on a group of fellow conference attendees as we drove to find dinner that evening.

But the next morning, I was able to give back to the conference attendees as they sang along with me as I played piano for the time of worship.  It has always been a learning experience for me to lead in hymn-singing since I find I am less competent in this area.  That morning at the piano, I found the experience to be one of interdependence.  I had to follow verse by verse and accommodate the singing— not playing too fast or too slow; the singers had to follow me as well— finding the melody and harmony parts based on the notes I was playing.  Many of us had disabilities in the room that day, but in worshipping together, we became one body with different skills and gifts.  We were interdependent in what we brought to the table. 

At our church recently, we have been discovering what it means to participate in loving relationships, and I truly believe interdependence is a big part of this.  Interdependence is a relationship of relying on one another; no one is more dependent than another and no one is completely independent either   We come together in love with Christ as the head, knowing that we are nothing without Him and without each other.     

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