I didn’t expect to hear a sermon yesterday in church. It was my turn to teach our small group of energetic preschool- and elementary-aged kids, and I was feeling anything but energetic. I’d been running around all weekend, my throat was sore, and I’d forgotten it was my turn to teach. Naturally, I considered calling a substitute.
Then I saw the subject for the day’s lesson: How God made a way through Christ for us to spend eternity with Him.
How could I miss sharing such good news? I arrived at church early to prepare for class, feeling more inspired as I read through the lesson. I set up the buckets of markers and glue and paper and walked upstairs to the sanctuary. As I did, a dear grandmother, Clara, who never misses an opportunity to encourage me, waved me over.
“I thought you’d like this,” she said, pulling a pink envelope from her purse as I sat in the pew behind her. “I found this in a family scrapbook, and I wasn’t sure anyone would want it. Then I thought of you.”
And she gave it to me.
Wondering what was inside, I opened the flap and pulled out a yellowed slip of paper. It was folded in half and partly torn along the crease from years of being opened and closed. On top, in faded, wobbly cursive, was written the date: 5-5-63. Fifty one years ago.
“My grandmother wrote this when she was battling cancer,” Clara said. “She was a mother of ten. Ten! She lived with us before she died. My husband and I had five children, but he was always taking care of people. Our youngest were just two and three at the time.”
Then, I read the words she’d handed me–this sermon, written by an ailing grandmother at the end of her life:
Not Barren Years
One day while bending low in deep contrition,
My heart seemed broken for the years gone by.
They seemed to me but barren years and wasted,
And then the Lord stooped down and heard me cry.
“Those years, those bygone years,” He gently told me.
“They are not barren as they seem to be.
For in these years you gently rocked a cradle,
And prayed that each new life belong to me.
And when those faltering feet began their journey,
Along life’s rugged road, and times were hard,
With tender hands in yours, and yours in mine,
You borrowed strength to lead them to their Lord.
The first new word you taught them to lisp was ‘Jesus,’
And they have found salvation in that name,
And though the years will bring both joys and sorrows,
Because you prayed, they never will be the same.
Some day before the throne you’ll stand in glory and hear from me,
Those words of comfort clear,
‘Those years of motherhood, they were not wasted.
Your children are all here.'”
As I finished reading, I blinked back tears. How easy it is to forget our higher aim in the working and waiting and wearying days of motherhood. Life moves fast, as I’m sure it did for this godly grandmother, Edith Clough, of Mount Vernon, Maine. I only wish I could haven see her reaction as one by one nine of her children passed on.
This morning I phoned Clara. “Did all of your grandmother’s children follow the Lord?” I asked.
“Not all,” she said. “In those days, we didn’t understand what the preacher was saying. In church you didn’t make a noise. You didn’t move. You didn’t ask questions.”
I thought of those wiggly Sunday school kids, glad for the chance to share God’s love with them in a way they’d understand. And I thought of my own five kids, praying that as their lives come into full bloom God will make my years of motherhood, not barren, but blessed.
“He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children,” Psalm 113:9.
What do you think?