Growing up in the Mormon faith, one of my favorite hymns were Put your shoulder to the wheel. Not quite a typical hymnal of worship. However, it held specific meaning in a way that helped shape my understanding of life. The hymn was written during the migration of the Mormon Pioneers as the author took thought in how the saints pushed their various wheeled carts along.
In recovery, each individual has work to do. As the third stanza says:
Then don’t stand idly looking on;
The fight with sin is real.
It will be long but must go on;
Put your shoulder to the wheel
Sin is quite an interesting word. There are a variety of Hebraic words translated into the common English language for sin. One word is Chata (Khaw-taw). It means to “miss the mark”, or, “to go wrong.” In recovery, the fight to go wrong is quite real for many who suffer from substance use disorder. The road to recovery is long, and to reach a place of serenity, one must go on with their journey. And, this is only accomplished when an individual put’s their shoulder to the wheel. The meaning is found in an Aesop fable concerning Hercules and the Wagoner:
A Wagoner was driving a heavy load along a muddy road. He came to a part of the road where the wheels sank half-way into the mire, and the more the horses pulled, the deeper sank the wheels. So the Wagoner threw down his whip, knelt down and prayed to Hercules the Strong.
“O Hercules, help me in this my hour of distress.”
But Hercules appeared to him, and said: “Tut, man, don’t sprawl there. Get up and put your shoulder to the wheel.”
Hercules definitely had the strength to remove the wagon. However, the moral of this fable tells us that we sometimes benefit when we exert our own efforts and strength in order to accomplish what needs to be accomplished. Some of the time, we have our own strength to rely upon to move forward.
Recovery takes formidable and great effort on our part when we put our shoulder to the wheel
The idea behind putting one’s shoulder to the wheel stems from the understanding that it takes a great and formidable effort on our part. Recovery is no different. By putting forth great effort, we are putting our own shoulder to the wheel to push along our journey out of the mire of substance use.
The time is now for individuals to stand a little taller, to lift their eyes from the past, prevent from focusing on what has not yet been determined, and commit to a season to squarely place their shoulder to the wheel of their life and push with mighty force toward sobriety.
The time is now to do what is right in recovery
As the new year begins, let this be the season where you make a radical commitment to recovery. A time to stand a little taller in recovery, focusing on what is happening now, opposed to what has or has not yet happened. This is a season for you to do what is right regardless of the consequences that may follow. There is nothing to fear when we stand a little taller, submit our lives and will over to our higher power (as one may understand). When we do, we may remember this:
Then work and watch and fight and pray
With all your might and zeal.
Push ev’ry worthy work along;
Put your shoulder to the wheel.
Put your shoulder to the wheel; push along,
Do your duty with a heart full of song,
We all have work; let no one shirk.
Put your shoulder to the wheel.
Today’s thoughtful meditation:
I know recovery takes work, courage, commitment, and requires strength and effort. I’m resolved to put my shoulder to the wheel of my recovery and stand a little taller to move forward.