It’s not all “self reliance”

Carried over the hills of the Czech countryside. Taylor Smith

The first time I read Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson, I remember setting the book down, lunging straight for my keys and slamming the door as I ran outside to the forest behind my house.

Immediately, I wanted to be in the thick of the wild – get away from any material gunk. I wanted all things glossy, artificial and pink to be off my radar.

‘I am my own person,’ I remember thinking. ‘I can do anything and be anything if I set my mind to it and I don’t really need the help of anyone or to get me there.’

My eyes sailed towards the the green deciduous trees, whose leaves had tiny veins that weaved a dark pattern on their glowing, lime green palms. They fluttered in the spring breeze and even hummed when bigger gusts came along. I sat on the side of a large gray boulder and closed my wander-lusting eyes.

Five peaceful seconds passed and then my stomach growled. I squeezed my eyelids tighter, trying to get my mind off my sudden hunger and focus on grander philosophical things: independence, autonomy and willpower.

But quickly, my thoughts drifted to Wheat Thins and peanut butter, my dad pulling sizzling pork chops off the stove and the feeling of sliding into the slick bench on the side of our breakfast nook.

My toe began tapping along the forest floor. ‘Why can’t I just be content alone and ignore my silly needs like hunger?!’

At 15, silence and stillness were two things I was very far from mastering (and things I’m still diligently working on), and the third rumble of my grumbling stomach got me on my feet and dashing back up the hill to my house.

When I opened the door, the soft lighting of the amber cafe lights in our kitchen and sounds of the Spanish guitar made my shoulders melt into my back. My dad, seeing me run in from outside, pulled a snack out of the fridge and set it on the counter. He knew exactly what I needed: a warm, cozy home, food and someone who cared for me.

Often times we think that we have to muscle up and take the word “help” out of our vocabulary if we want to seem strong. For years, the idea of asking for help made me think I was weak and needy. I wanted to do everything on my own and make my own decisions, even if asking for council was the wise thing to do and would make the path a little easier in the long run.

I saw myself as the one source of strength that could get me through – that sense of being “self reliant.” But I’ve come to realize that self reliance is something I will never attain and never want to work towards.

Each day, I rely on God to guide me through every twist and turn on my journey. Nothing is too insignificant or mighty to give to Him. I am completely reliant on our Father because I know that He has the best planned for me. Why would I want to try to change the great things He has in store, especially during times when a painful storm clouds my vision?

On my bathroom mirror, I have this verse written on a Post-It note, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

It’s a far cry from the term “self reliance,” but after realizing how God gives me strength to get through challenges I once thought were insurmountable, I can’t imagine wanting to relying on anything else.

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