Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I can do hard things!

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a Sunday school class as a visitor with my sister-in-law in Utah, wherein a lesson was given on the topic of the pioneers that traveled from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City in the late 1840's (as Pioneer Day was the following Tuesday). The timing of the lesson was deliberate, I know - for I had previously sat through many lessons given in reverence of the pioneers. It was his perspective on the topic; however, that stood out so prominently in my mind.

Upon first entering the room where the class was designated to take place, we saw the phrase, "I can do hard things" written on the board. The gentleman giving the lesson initiated the discussion by telling us how his wife had begun using the phrase in their home when their children would complain about chores or other tasks they were asked to complete, claiming, "It's too hard," or "I can't do it by myself." As a mother, I had to laugh because of the fact that I could totally relate to the situation (as could every other parent in that room, I am sure). My husband and I have tried implementing similar philosophies in our own home, but I cannot tell you how many times we have heard those same protestations from our children too, as if sweeping the floor or taking out the trash would require them to give us their right arm or something.

As parents, we understand that the simple responsibilities we give them are not to torment them or make their lives miserable (even though that is what they may claim at the time). We are, in fact, only trying to teach them the value of hard work and self sufficiency. They only complain because they don't yet understand the value of the lesson they are being taught.

After a few good laughs of appreciation for his amusing, little anecdote, with which we all could identify, the atmosphere in the room began to shift as he started to convey how that same phrase relates to the pioneers and the dissimilar attitudes they expressed through their experiences in life.

Initially, he gave us a brief history on their journey, as could be expected, but then we began to discuss some things that made us more apathetic to their heart-breaking misfortunes. He spoke of families pushing hand carts across the plains through the most horrible of conditions imaginable, wives who lost husbands, mothers who lost children from exposure and starvation, etc... Still, through the rain, snow, mud, and heaven knows what else, these people continued to press forward, steadfast in their faith. Why? Because they believed that what they were doing was righteous and significant, and they knew it was necessary to experience those trials in order to arrive at the blessings that had been promised to them. So, why is it that so many of us feel that our lot is too difficult? Or that we lack the strength to endure it?

This brings me to the moral of the story. The message of the lesson that was taught that day was two-fold for me. First (as I am sure was the intention of the lesson), it serves as a reminder of the trials the pioneers faced and the faith they possessed, which caused them to endure to the end, in spite of those trials. I know that remembering their hardships can teach us to refrain from murmuring as we encounter difficult circumstances in our own lives. It can also give us the ability to remain humble and maintain an attitude of gratitude, especially when most of us are fortunate enough to have the essential necessities that we require for survival (and for our own comfort) on a daily basis.

This message can also grant us the confidence to recognize that as children of our Heavenly Father, we (like the pioneers) do have the capacity to do hard things. Over the course of the next few days, it almost became a little inside joke between my sister-in-law and me. In dealing with children who seemed determined (for whatever reason) to make life complicated, and challenges that the Lord must have felt were necessary for us to face at that moment in time, repeating the simple phrase that was written on the board that Sunday morning would bring a smile to our faces, lightening our mood tremendously.

So, in closing, I just want to express my appreciation for a man who may never understand the impact that his lesson has had on my thinking - and for a simple phrase that I can recite on a regular basis to remind myself (and my family) that life is a test, but that's okay - because I can do hard things! :)

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