“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. . . . having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.”
— Philippians 1:6, 11
One of the most pervasive of American myths is the notion of “self-made man.”
I once ministered in hospital chaplaincy to a patient in his mid-forties who told me that it took his recovering from a life-threatening wreck for him to get over his “self-made” image.
This successful businessman confided, “I’ve always bragged and bragged about being ‘a self-made man.’ How foolish is that?”
The patient’s story was right out of Horatio Alger–the inspiring yarn of a man who rose from “rags to riches.”
The first time I saw him he was fighting for his life in the E.R. after a head-on crash. I ministered to his family throughout the night; then he and his loved ones turned out to be one of those families I ministered to for months as he survived multiple surgeries and a long recovery in Intensive Care.
As commonly happens in these cases, his leaving the cheerless hospital and going home after a grueling recovery was bittersweet. He and his family were joyous about the liberation. But they were sad about leaving all the doctors, nurses and caregivers who had made this “self-made man” new with so much physical and spiritual care. And as happy as we were for them, we the caregivers were a little sad to see them go.
Thanksgiving is a good time to remember we can’t possibly be “self-made” or “self -maintained.”
All our meaningful gifts are communal. Whatever success I’ve had in two careers–journalism and ministry–and whatever happiness and joy I’ve taken from the wonderful, fulfilling life I’ve enjoyed springs from what others have done for me as much as what I’ve done for myself. Maybe more.
Here’s a Thanksgiving Season thought: We can’t thankful to God and others enough that we’re not “self-made.”
There’s no making it through a day, much less a life, without care, support and maintenance from others.
But, in case you happen to be the exception, raise your hand so that I and everybody else can bow down and worship you.