Autonomy is your ability for self-government. This is often misunderstood in two ways:
- We find ourselves in a works mentality, trying harder.
- We find ourselves with victim thinking that God does it all and we sit and wait.
Sonship Identity and Autonomy are forever connected.
As I grow in my identity as a son of God (a lifetime pursuit) my ability to live out that identity in autonomy increases.
I’ve written before about Sonship in terms of feeling safe with fathers and opening our hearts to allow their influence in our lives so I want to build on that. Healthy sonship identity leads to increased capacity for autonomy. This is where maturity really happens.
Think of physical abuse for a moment, a slap across the face when you didn’t even realize you were saying something wrong. This treats a person like an object, diminishing sonship identity, because it does not respect their thoughts or feelings. It causes the person to experience feelings of powerlessness and to struggle with initiative and taking personal responsibility.
Romans 8:16 says, “For the Holy Spirit speaks to us and tells our spirit that we are children of God.” This is our identity, we are children of God. “For He planned in love, for us to be adopted as His own children…accepted in the beloved.” (Eph1:5, 6 Amp.)
Man rebelled. Adam chose the independence of knowing good and evil, the ability to choose for himself how he would live life. Even though God created Adam, the air he breathed, the water he drank, and the food he ate, God didn’t destroy him for his betrayal. God tried to talk with Adam but he didn’t take responsibility for his actions, instead he blame shifted — “That woman you gave me!” It’s also noteworthy that God didn’t act in co-dependence and rescue Adam from the consequences of his choices. This is good parenting that builds a healthy identity. It’s important to know Father God as One who respects free will and One who is also secure enough to allow us to learn from our wrong choices. This is well exemplified in the story of the prodigal. The father never closed his heart toward the rebellious son, nor did he run after him, allowing him to experience being hungry in a pig pen.
“Think about healthy childhood development. A wise parent will allow increasing autonomy, encouraging the child to make decisions and face the consequences. When we see a person who has never grown up they often blame shift and justify, not accepting responsibility for their choices. Such a person takes little or no initiative but is highly responsive to outside influences, blown this way and that according to the prevailing wind of other persons. This may be extreme, but everyone is challenged by this some.” Ted Ward
When we can see God’s heart toward us and receive His discipline — knowing it is for our actions and not an attack on our person — we mature. We start to comprehend how our wrong behavior hurts our relationship with God and others. This gives us a better understanding of reciprocity in the world which teaches us greater community, openness, humility, empathy, and core values. These values then become integrated in us producing greater autonomy, not because we have to or we’ll be rejected if we don’t, but rather because we have a healthy identity in God’s love, and value His love and desire to give it to others from a deep place inside of us.