A Life’s Work

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  • Few women today are concerned about ironing sheets, but it is still possible to let many other things take precedence over the primary task. It is sobering to contemplate that day when we must answer to a holy God for the things done and not done. Hear the concerns of an unidentified writer of another era: 

    I am sadly concerned that thousands of mothers are so over-burdened that the actual demands of life from day to day consume all their time and strength. But of two evils, choose the lesser: which would you call the lesser — an unpolished stove or an untaught boy? Dirty windows, or a child whose confidence you have failed to gain? Cobwebs in the corner, or a son over whose soul a crust has formed, so strong that you despair of melting it with your hot tears and fervent prayers?

    I have seen a woman who was absolutely ignorant of her children’s habits of thought, who never felt that she could spare a half-hour to read or talk with them — I have seen this woman spend ten minutes in ironing a sheet, or forty minutes icing a cake for tea, because company was expected. 

    When the mother, a good orthodox Christian, shall appear before the Great White Throne to be judged for the “deeds done in the body,” and to give her report of the Master’s treasures placed in her care, there will be questions and answers like these: 

    “Where are the boys and girls I gave thee?” 
    “Lord, I was busy keeping my house clean and in order, and my children wandered away.” 
    “Where wert thou while they sons and thy daughters were learning lessons of dishonesty, malice, and impurity?” 
    “Lord, I was polishing furniture and making beautiful rugs.” 
    “What hast thou to show for thy life’s work?” 
    “The tidiest house, Lord, and the best starching and ironing in all our neighborhood!” 

    Oh these children, these children! The restless eager boys and girls whom we love more than our lives! Shall we devote our time and strength to that which perishes while the rich garden of our child’s soul lies neglected, with foul weeds choking out all worthy and beautiful growths? Fleeting indeed, 0 mother, are the days of childhood, and speckless windows, snowy linen, the consciousness that everything about the house is faultlessly bright and clean will be poor comfort in that day wherein we shall discover that our poor boy’s feet have chosen the path that shall take him out of the way to all eternity.

    ** Excerpt was originally published in the Sept/Oct 1994 Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter.