“God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.” Genesis 1:28-30
Mulan has always been one of my favorite Disney movies - tough girl, great music, talking animals? Say no more, I’m there! But that iconic song, “I’ll Make a Man out of You” stresses me out. Li Shang urges the soldiers to “Be a man, With all the force of a great typhoon, Be a man, With all the strength of a raging fire, Mysterious as the dark side of the moon.” Meanwhile our girl Mulan is straightening her shoulders, completely alone, feeling like the whole world can see straight through her.
No one will cheer harder than me when she climbs to to top of the tower, but my secondhand nerves go much deeper than rooting for a fictional character. I relate to Mulan because more often than not, I feel like a fraud, trying so hard to follow God’s commands while hoping people don’t see straight through me. This is not the way we were intended to live, friends!
The hope of the Christian life is that we were never meant to pull up our bootstraps and try harder, relying only on ourselves. In Genesis 1 we see that even in the beginning, before sin muddied the world, God created Adam and Eve to rely on Him in a communal relationship. He gives them food to eat and land to cultivate. Even when humans were sinless and perfect, in a harmonious relationship with their Creator, their lives were a daily practice of dependence.
If Adam and Eve depended on God in Eden, how much more should we rely on him for our daily and hourly manna? The Christian life is one of continual repentance and dependence on a gracious God who loves sinners deeply. A mature Christian is not someone who has it all together and does everything correctly. The more Christ-like you become, the more clearly you see the ways you fall short, and your need of him, you will depend on Him more, not less! We are not commanded to perform, we’re told to abide. To simply remain in relationship with Jesus, humble and dependent on his sanctifying grace.
In some ways, our lives of believers actually are a little bit like this song from Mulan, except the pressure isn’t on us. God is saying “I’ll make you more like me.” Instead of cowering away, knowing how deeply we don’t measure up, we can step forward in confidence because He is our Abba, our Father. We can daily depend on Him, as He shapes us to be more like himself, more like the people we were always meant to become. Today, you can cease your striving and just abide. You can stop trying to measure up and simply depend.