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The other evening, I taught a lesson to my son, Craig, and Andrew, my grandson. They were staying with me while all the young women in the family had gone to a girls’ camp. I asked the boys to imagine an old-fashioned wagon wheel, with a central hub and spokes going out to the rim of the metal around the outside of the wheel.
I told them to imagine that each spoke represented a part of a balanced life. One spoke stood for our spiritual life, one stood for our education, one for our social life, one for our work and one for our physical body. There could be other spokes, but these are the most important.
I asked Craig and Andrew what they thought would happen if one spoke got longer than the rest on the wagon wheel. They readily responded that the wheel would get out of balance, and if it got too long, it would eventually wreck the wheel completely.
Our lives are like the wheel. We need balance. Jesus alluded to this balance when he said, “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). I heard once that the Hebrew word for perfect means complete or whole. We cannot be perfect, or whole, if we are out of balance.
If we have addictions or obsessions that fill up our time, we lose our balance in other aspects of our lives and, if not corrected, we wreck our lives.
Consider the drug addict, the sex monger, the workaholic, the Facebook fanatic or the television couch potato. Even anger and grudges can be obsessions that cause us to be out of balance. With an obsession, one spoke of the wheel gets so long that it crowds out every other aspect of life.
We find ourselves bumping along a road of diminishing returns. The more time we spend with an addiction, the more we need it, and the less fulfilling it becomes. The rest of our life is neglected.
Our families, our dreams of success and our life’s mission all go to the place of no return. Sadly, we will one day wake up and find we have nothing of value to remember or to be proud of. So what is the answer?
Making Christ the hub of our life’s wheel and becoming self-reliant. Self-reliance and becoming dependent on Jesus seem to be in opposition, but in reality, our life is never truly balanced until we have submitted ourselves to the will of God.
He is the giver of all good things, and He controls the power by which miracles happen. He knows the end from the beginning. He knows our mission and can help us make more of our lives than we can on our own, but He needs our cooperation. He cannot give us success unless we are willing and able to seize the opportunity. That is where self-reliance comes in.
Self-reliance is self-discipline, knowledge, creativity, wisdom and faith all rolled into one. Self-reliance means the ability to trust yourself to solve your own problems without the help of the government, society or handouts.
It means that you follow the counsel of St. Augustine: “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” In other words: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
First, let us examine things that deter us from being self-reliant. Many people in our society have become dependent on others for everything.
They look to the government for assistance. They expect the schools to educate their children. They look to the plumber to fix the bathroom sink and the grocery store to provide the food. They turn to the psychiatrist or a psychic to plan their future. If they get depressed, they turn to the medicine cabinet or the family physician.
Don’t get me wrong. Knowing where to turn with a problem is important, but giving up personal knowledge and experience is a deterrent to self-reliance. It is important to gain knowledge in many subjects. The old adage, “Knowledge is power,” is true.
The attitude that problems are unsolvable is another deterrent to self-reliance. Some people look at a broken pipe and let the water run, saying, “It’s broken, the house is getting flooded! Oh, woe is me!” Others look at the broken pipe and find the shut-off valve.
Some people look at their marriage and say, “Nothing can be done. It is the end of the road.” Other people look at their marriage and say, “What can I do to fix it?” They look for the solution and find one. There is an answer to every problem. We just haven’t found it yet.
Apathy, self-pity and playing the “blame game” are all attitudes that stand in the way of self-reliance. Apathy is a sleepy-eyed thief that robs us of our time and energy and our future memories. We sleep our dreams away, thinking that tomorrow it will make no difference how we live today.
One day we will wake up and see that every minute of every hour is counted. Life is the sum total of who we have become and what we will present to our Maker as our gift to Him for the life He gave us.
Self-pity, another deterrent, puts us in a corner where we lick our wounds and whine about how unfair life is. Life does not need to be fair; life needs to be lived.
God will take care of justice, but He does not balance the tally book every day. He allows natural consequences to do their job. The natural consequence of self-pity is to be marooned in a dark corner surrounded by people who don’t care.
The blame game is another way to avoid self-reliance. It is easy to look at others and say, “If only they had done this or that, I would be successful.” It is hard to point fingers at ourselves and realize that we are in the predicament that we have unwittingly chosen.
The law of the harvest is exacting. What we think, we become. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). We cannot blame the government, society or our parents for where we are. We have to look into our own hearts.
We can stay in the mud with swine, or we can get out of the pigpen, clean ourselves off and start all over again. Self-reliant people look past the problem to the solution. Their “whys” are couched in “What am I to learn from this?”
There are many deterrents to self-reliance, but how do we build self-reliance? Self-reliance builders are many and varied, but I will only mention three: correct knowledge of who we really are, correct response to adversity and accepting the Lord’s chastening.
Who are we really? We are children of God, created in His image. We must have power beyond what we believe possible. If we can grasp that concept, we can no longer accept excuses for not being the best we can be. We cannot accept excuses for not pushing our limits.
There is no room for self-pity, the blame game or apathy. We were born to be successful! We were born to accomplish great things.
If we are to build self-reliance, we will welcome adversity. We will see that adversity is the weight that tones our spiritual muscles. Adversity is the teacher that instructs us in compassion and trust in the Lord. Adversity is the mechanic that corrects our mistakes and gives us experience.
Finally, adversity is a chance to walk hand-in-hand with the Savior, who was “acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).
One last self-reliance builder is the ability to accept criticism or chastening. D. Todd Christofferson said it much better than I can: “... one particular attitude and practice we need to adopt if we are to meet our Heavenly Father’s high expectations. It is this: willingly to accept and even seek correction."
"Correction is vital if we would conform our lives ‘unto a perfect man, [that is,] unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:13). Paul said of divine correction or chastening, ‘For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth’ (Hebrews 12:6). Though it is often difficult to endure, truly we ought to rejoice that God considers us worth the time and trouble to correct.”
Our lives are indeed like a wheel; if our spokes are in balance and Christ is the hub, we will be able to reach our full potential and fulfill our God-given mission. We need to recognize that we grow “precept upon precept; line upon line,” (Isaiah 28:10). In other words, one question and one answer at a time. Christ has the answers. We need to ask the questions. PD