As I watch the new bottles of produce from the garden line the shelves of our storage room, I think of the many days my family and I spent in the garden weeding, watering and fertilizing the plants to have the harvest. Last night, we bottled the beets.
Four generations were there to help: my husband and I, my son and his three daughters, and my daughter and her daughter-in-law and her baby. We all pitched in and made short work of the beets.
The 6-year-old twins and the 3-year-old helped Grandpa clip the tops off the beets. Grandma washed the bottles and gathered the cookers. The granddaughter-in-law gathered the rings and lids. The son-in-law cut up the beets, and the daughter put them in the jars.
The baby played on the floor. We finished the project at 11:30 p.m., but nobody complained about the perspiration dripping off our noses or the lateness of the hour. We just worked – and smiled with satisfaction when it was finished.
Could we have purchased the beets already canned at the store for a better price than we paid for the jars, rings and lids or the water for the garden? Could we have found a better deal that wasn’t quite so labor-intensive? Yes, but our family places a high premium on self-reliance.
Self-reliance is facing challenges, solving problems, teaching yourself to do difficult things while you find joy in your own success. When God created the earth, he showed us the perfect pattern for self-reliance.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
God started with a problem. The earth was without form, and everything was dark. The “spirit moved” or, in other words, God took inventory of what He had and what needed to be done.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
God realized He needed to see and everything He would create would need to see. He solved the problem.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
God took satisfaction in His job well done. He didn’t abandon the darkness; He simply found a new use for it.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
The next problem God faced was water. He knew light and water were essential elements for life. God knew simply putting water on the earth would not serve His purpose in watering his magnificent garden. So, He set up the elaborate evaporation cycle that continues to water the earth.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
God knew land plants cannot grow without dirt, so He solved His next problem.
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
Again, God took satisfaction in a job well done.
God solved problem after problem. He planted grass and plants before animals were placed on the earth. He made day and night and planned the seasons, giving the animals time for rest and renewal. He put the lights in the heavens, the sun, moon and stars.
He filled the waters with living creatures, and all this He called “good.” He made sure everything was prepared before He placed man and woman on the earth to:
Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
When He was finished, He called it “very good.”
God expects His children to follow His example. He commanded, “six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work, and rest on the seventh day.” He expected us to be creative and solve problems for six days.
We, as a nation, have become consumers, not producers. Many have forgotten how to raise their own food. The supermarket is too convenient and cheap. Shopping at the store takes infinitely less time than gardening and preserving the harvest. It is easier to buy socks than to knit them or buy a suit of clothes than to take time to play the tailor.
When the car breaks down, it is easier to call a mechanic, or if the toilet doesn’t flush, it is easier to call a plumber. If the phone doesn’t work, it is more convenient to buy a new one than to tear it apart and try to fix it. In fact, doing so would make the problem worse. We don’t have the skills.
It is nice to have someone else solve our problems, but when we do that, the joy and satisfaction in a job well done belongs to someone else. We don’t feel it, and we don’t appreciate it.
I am not advocating caveman-style living where you do everything from scratch. We don’t have time to do everything, but there is danger in not being self-reliant, and there is stagnation in letting someone else do everything for us.
Part of subduing the earth and having dominion over it is using creative power to accomplish something that makes the world a better place. It means learning how to care for yourself and your family in any difficult situation and being able to creatively solve problems.
Today, many young people sit with devices and browse through the eye and ear candy without doing anything creative. They never need to do anything more difficult than getting up in the morning and dressing for breakfast, going to school and coming home.
Even at school, they are often spoon-fed the answers to life’s questions, and the high-stakes tests are multiple choice with few, if any, think-about-it essay questions. Today’s youth live in a pre-packaged entertain-me world. They text a few lines or punch the “like” button and wonder why their lives seem boring.
Many watch movies or play video games to pass the time, never realizing there is so much more to life. They chase the elusive feeling of fulfilment in all the wrong places. They don’t realize satisfaction in life is a do-it-yourself problem-solving project.
Creating and problem-solving are Godlike qualities intended to help us to develop. Watch children learning to walk. They are fiercely independent. My 2-year-old granddaughter is a delight to watch. She will try a skill and fail, but she keeps trying new ways until she finds one that works. Then she will practice and practice until she can do it every time.
She celebrates every success with a smile and a scream of delight. She finds joy in every effort and triumph. She, like other children her age, gets angry if I try to help her. She wants to do it herself. It’s that drive for self-reliance that motivates children to grow and learn. The drive is inherent in them from their first breath and will last a lifetime if it is fostered and allowed to develop.
My husband’s mother was 90 when she bought a loom to make tapestries. She was so excited to learn a new skill. She purchased it from a lady who was 65 who thought she was too old to do anything creative. My mother-in-law was a childlike learner until the day she passed away.
When she could no longer see to do the fine-thread crocheting she had done all her life, she had her son make her a crochet hook out of an old wooden drumstick so she could make rag rugs to give away. She was the model of self-reliance. Granted, she grew up in a different world.
She didn’t have the distractions we have, but she made learning a priority in the same way we will need to if we are to really find the satisfaction God intended us to find on our journey through mortality.