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Feeling Small in a Little House: Discomfort and Self-Sufficiency

I was not much of a reader through my youth and much of my teen years. I have tried to make up for it since age 16, however, even if I had been a reader, I probably would not have read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I had heard of them and I knew that they had been made into a television show, but the show did not sound interesting to me in my youth, so I would have assumed the books would not have been enjoyable either.

I recently read through the series of books with my daughters. We would read them a chapter at a time in the evenings, and I must now confess they are wonderful stories with great characters. The books start when Laura is around five and they go through when she is married in her late teens, and follow the travels and travails of the Ingalls family from Wisconsin to Oklahoma and through the northern plains states. This is somewhat hard to admit, but the character of Charles Ingalls, or Pa as Laura calls him, has caused me quite a bit of discomfort.

A Little Discomfort

Charles builds their houses by hand, sometimes with lumber he felled in the woods and sometimes with lumber purchased from the lumber mill. No chainsaws or battery powered drills or nail guns (or even nails sometimes) – simply an axe and maybe a saw or hammer. He builds the furniture they use, the doors to keep out the elements, and he even dug a well for their drinking water with a shovel and the help of a neighbor. He led his family into unknown territory without a GPS or cell phone or minivan, using a horse-drawn wagon, a trusty dog, and directions by landmarks.

On top of these things (and there are many more not mentioned), he plays the fiddle and sings countless songs by memory, and leads his family in music many evenings. He is always ready with a laugh or an encouraging word and works diligently to take care of his family.

You see, in so many ways, I want to be Charles. Maybe not go through everything he did – I really have no desire to experience the grasshoppers as mentioned in On the Banks of Plum Creek nor to go through the long winter as described in The Long Winter – but somehow to look back and say, “look what I did,” or to look ahead and think that I can make it no matter what on my own.

What’s Really So Appealing

When I have moments like these, and I have way more moments than I really like to admit, it is the idea of being self-sufficient that is so appealing. It is this idea of being able to take care of myself, provide for myself, and take care of my family so that I am not reliant on anyone or anything else. But there is a problem in my thinking – no matter how well I plan and save, no matter how hard I work, no matter what I learn how to do, no matter how “independent” I seek to be, I am still totally and completely dependent on God for everything.

You see, the only one who is totally independent and self-sufficient is God. He does not need anything in creation nor does He need anything from us. He never has and never will. As His creation, we are dependent upon Him for everything – life, breath, health, everything.

To think that we can get around this is like a 14-year old telling their parents that they do not need them, that they (the 14-year old) want to be independent, make their own decisions, run their own lives (including when they go to bed, when they get up, where they will go, and what they will do), but still needs the parents to provide food, clothing, a place to live, a phone, and wifi, plus other “stuff” not mentioned but assumed.

What I’m Not Suggesting

Now, I am not suggesting that I do not need to work or to be diligent to trying to pay my bills and take care of my family. I need to do those things, but at the end of the day, the Lord is the one who provides and makes all things happen. I cannot be God, and I need to make sure that I am not aspiring to be Him, only to seek to know Him and worship Him with thanksgiving for all that He does for me. When I struggle with this, I also need to remember that the Lord is not only self-sufficient, but completely and perfectly good. As I rest in Him and trust Him for all that I need, I can be assured of His faithful goodness.

As a dad, I need to remember this too. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote these books about her dad, and so it is through that lens that we see Charles. We see him as a father greatly loved and admired by his daughter. As much as I want to be a great dad, I cannot provide everything that my children need. Only God can do that. What I must do is point my children toward the Lord and let them see my dependence on Him.

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