We like to do everything ourselves.
From the moment we take our first steps, teetering out of our parents' arms, we spend our lives seeking after independence. At each point, the goal is to do things on our own.
While this quest for independence is more pronounced in our teenage and college years, we also see it creeping up into our lives at nearly every milestone, first as we move out, get married, and begin starting a family, then again as we retire.
As Americans, we have always loved the achievement of independence and the vision of the self-made man. We want financial independence, energy independence, independent movies, and indie rock. It's no wonder our culture has become obsessed with do-it-yourself movement. DIY has taken over, as people across the country proudly do everything from crafting décor and canning jams to coding programs and repairing homes.
With this belief, there's an expectation that we can do it ourselves, or at least learn to. Countless blogs and websites like WikiHow provide tutorials on "how to do anything." A whole industry of books is dedicated to helping us navigate through life. From books on financial planning to dating, Christians can find every answer they need for how to live the good life with a few clicks and page turns.
Even faced with the tough task of welcoming a baby into this world seems a little more manageable when a library of books offer to tell you how to do it. When my twins were born I buried my nose in every sleep-training book recommended, while my very helpful mom, who raised four well-slept children, sat on the couch next to me holding my crying, sleepless baby. Trained by our culture to boldly do-it-myself, I studied the counsel of people who didn't know me or my babies, instead of asking my own mother. That was wrong.
For all the talk about the importance of mentors in the lives of the next generation, many of us younger folk tend to gravitate toward people our own age, both in social settings and the church. We don't purposefully ignore or dismiss the wealth of wisdom offered by those who have gone before us, but our instinct has become to do it ourselves. Learn it. Struggle through it.
Or, in a moment of crisis, we turn to our peers. It's called the "Rehoboam syndrome." Rather than listen to his father's advisors, Rehoboam looked to the advice of his peers instead, and paid for it (1 Kings 12). Let's face it; it is much easier, and more comfortable, to lean on ourselves and our friends rather than our parents or parents' friends. Why would we need to seek out the advice of those older than us when we could just post a question on Facebook or Twitter and get immediate answers from all the other moms, brides-to-be, students, or wives who are right in the thick of it with us? We all commiserate about our problems with the latest book in hand that promises to give us all the answers we need when maybe, just maybe, there is an older, wiser man or woman in our church who can not only give us answers, but hold our hands and tell us everything is going to work out just fine.
What Rehoboam and I failed to realize is that we don't have all the answers, and neither do our friends nor books the books that claim to.
While God loves to watch us learn and grow, from starting our own families to putting our hands to work creating things on our own, we must be wise to let pride in independence force us to do too much by ourselves. God, who is the Master Creator, made us to create. Our desire to create things, even on our own, is part of what it means to be created in his image. We were made to discover this vast world he made, whether it be through reading books, creating the latest DIY masterpiece, or becoming a parent for the first time.
But there is wisdom in seeking counsel from those who have gone before us. While books contain information and advice from older and wiser people, we were made for relationships with living, breathing human beings who are looking right at us, not just words on a page. We were not made to be lone rangers, going it alone with only our best girlfriends and a book in hand. We need the wisdom of older, wiser men and women in every stage of our lives.
I think this is what Paul was getting at when he instructed Titus on how to teach his congregants to function as the local church. In Titus 2 he shows that both younger and older men and women need each other. It is within the context of the local church that younger men and women learn how to live, parent, and be married. It is within the context of the local church that older men and women are given the opportunity to share all that God has taught them.
As Americans, we are prone to want to do everything ourselves. As Christians, we know the opposite is necessary for our growth and happiness. We are not lone rangers.
Sometimes, we need to stop doing it ourselves and start doing it with others. When asked about his advice for this generation, Tim Keller shared this line on Twitter: "You are the generation most afraid of real community because it inevitably limits freedom and choice. Get over your fear."
While our DIY, pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps culture might tell us we are fine with who and what we have around us, we need more than just ourselves, our friends, and the occasional self-help book. We need a variety of godly voices speaking into our lives (Prov. 15:22), from the oldest to the youngest.