John Lennon wrote “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans” in the song Beautiful Boy. It is a lyric I don’t like because it is a little too close to home.
As Human beings we really want to believe we are in control of our own destinies. Here in Alberta we place a high premium on the idea of the “self made” man or woman. We put a lot of pressure on each other in Alberta, and particularly in St. Albert.
As the poet John Donne reminded us “No man is an island, Entire of itself.” As a pastor in this city, I believe the lie of self-sufficiency is one of the big reasons that we have so many mental health challenges.
Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his book “Outliers” that no-one truly is self-made. We are all a product of our experiences and particularly, the community in which we grow up and now live.
For those of us fortunate enough to have grown up in Alberta, and more specifically, St. Albert, it is easier to maintain the illusion that we can control our own lives. Most of us grew up in families where money was not a big issue and our education equipped us to go even further than our parents did.
For a significant percentage of our lives we can pretend the steering wheel is in our hands, and we can look down on people who don’t have what we have, or who can’t make the decisions about their lives that we can. Too many of us living in St. Albert are living our lives in a way that is just setting us up for a painful fall.
Eventually, something will go wrong, and we will have to face the fact that our life is actually not our own. It can be a painful and disillusioning realization.
At the heart of Christianity is the understanding that we are not in control and that all of us have two fundamental needs: the need for a relationship with the God who actually is in control, and the need for relationship with others.
The bible’s version of John Lennon’s lyric is Proverbs 16:9: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Reading the bible regularly is a good recipe for humility, and humility is a good recipe for mental health.
Another good recipe for mental health is real community. In the same way we need to recognise that we are not God, we also need to recognise that we need others, and others need us.
In this remarkable city, that is continually in the top 10 places to live in Canada, we have two antidotes to the Albertan lie of self-sufficiency.
The first antidote is that every weekend local churches open their doors to anyone who has reached a point of realization that they are not God.
The second antidote is that our city leads the world in encouraging people to get to know and build relationship with their neighbours (see goodneighbourproject.org) through block parties and other initiatives.
You are not an island. Please consider engaging with a local church and getting to know your neighbours. I promise you won’t regret it