“Let Me Be,” The National Anthem of Our Perpetual Adolescence

The Gadsden Flag

Apparently it’s sometime in early childhood when we begin to define ourselves. Usually around the age of two we begin to make demands of others. Sadly these others often don’t appreciate our burgeoning self-hood, they even have a slur for us  — we’re no longer just babies, we’ve entered the terrible twos.

As we grow we begin to wander off into self-hood we seem to be more and more willing to leave the room, to turn the corner, to be ourselves and by ourselves. We play with freedom, and we learn, eventually, how risky that freedom can become.

This is where it gets really dangerous.  Because it’s just here that we risk getting lost.

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There is a perspective on liberty, a popular one these days, that confuses freedom and autonomy.

We call ourselves the “United” States, but much of our cultural and political communication seems to scream: “Leave me alone! Live and let live. If it ain’t causin’ you no harm then just let me be.” Is this really what we want, though? To be left alone? Is radical independence what makes us great? Are we willing to end up united only by our desire for isolation?

Whenever I give an affirmative answer to any of these questions I know I’m not in a good place. Looking back from a clear(er) headed distance I seem to myself something like a disgruntled adolescent who wants so bad to fit in, and find friends, but when asked what I’m thinking about, responds only with a mopish, “Nothing.”  Or, in the opposite mode of teenage insanity, slams the door on loved ones screaming, “I hate you! Just leave me alone! Let me be!”

This is why we hate teenagers… because they can be like two-year-olds who beg for gas money with raging hormones and dirtier mouths. Thank God we keep growing.

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There’s this little-known 60’s band called The Beatles (I don’t know if you’ve heard of them, but they’re alright) who preferred instead to say Let it Be. Can you imagine if they sang “Let me be” instead? When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me; speaking words of wisdom, let me be! Lady Gaga could probably pull it off… but why would she? Are anthems only sung to entrench an identity of isolation?

There is a real difference between saying, “Let me be,” and saying “Let it be done to me.” The first leaves us radically isolated. The other transforms our powerlessness into greatness. What is the difference? I suppose it’s a question of whether we think we’re the biggest thing in the universe, or the most important, or the one thing incapable of improvement. If we’re anything less than perfect then we should turn to the light and say let it be.

Here’s a question that marks good discernment as well as any: Am I turning in on myself, or am I opening myself to others and to God? Do I run into a tough spot, a threatening relationship, a challenging situation and say, “Sorry, no thanks, just let me be,” or do I open myself to vulnerability and courageously surrender to something greater than myself?

Mother Mary said, “Let it be done to me.”Jesus said at Gethsemane, “Let it be done according to your will.” [Italics added…Jesus didn’t speak in italics…didn’t type either…no iPhone and probably thick carpenter thumbs to boot]

This seems a mature thing to do, but maturity takes courage, strength, and, ultimately, real love.

Even in times of trouble…
let it be…
in the hour of darkness…
let it be…
brokenhearted people…
let it be.

God, if it be your will, then let it be. But don’t you ever let me be!

Let your light shine on me…
shine on until tomorrow and I’ll wake to the sound of music…
let it be!
Whisper words of wisdom: “Dear God, let it be.”

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