By guest author Elisha Ann Wahlquist
Do you love books? I do! What makes a book memorable? Many times, it’s because it reveals or highlights basic truths or emotions, as if it fingers a melody which resonates inside of us.
Sometimes, however, it may be true but painful.
Yesterday, I picked up an old book. With a rush of anticipation, I began to read. The plot, vivid and adventurous, swept me out on the untamed prairie with a young woman, her husband, and their tiny children as they battled the inhospitable elements, giving up all their personal dreams for others, armed with only determination and faith.
But all good stories must come to an end, and there I was, at the last chapter. The heroine — the woman who had braved so many bitter hardships to raise her children and create the now-flourishing state they lived in, who had given up her personal hopes of painting and music in order that her children might survive and do those things — enters the parlor of her son’s palatial house. Children hasten forward to give her the best chair, the softest cushions, make sure she has something to drink, and carefully tuck her faded shawl around her toil-twisted shoulders. She looks at them all with love in her time-dimmed eyes, propping her dowdy body up in her chair. She’s about to tell her gathered children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren a secret that is also an important life-truth: a lesson she learned that will help them understand and relate to life.
She’s poised to tell them, to reveal this secret that she’s never told anyone before. Her voice cracks with her inner emotion as she begins, “I had a chance to go to New York once.”
She’s a bent, work-gnarled body amidst sleek and soignée figures — bankers, college professors, doctors: her children, who only attained such dazzling heights because of her and her dead husband’s crushing self-sacrifice.
A few chic grandchildren glance up momentarily, their eyes revealing a bored wish that she not ramble on. One of her married daughters leans over to another, whispering, “See! That’s what I’ve been telling you. I’ve noticed that in her quite a lot lately. Just detached sentences like that with no special meaning …” A feminist granddaughter rolls her eyes at her boyfriend, whose mouth curls with mockery. He remembers the pain and confusion in the old lady’s eyes when he had let slip that he and her granddaughter weren’t planning to have any children when they got married. A son asks with a smile, “What is it, Mother?” but he’s only being polite.
The old lady didn’t say any more. Stifling a sad, misunderstood feeling, as she had done before, she slipped back into her thoughts. But despite her pain, they were the losers. Their carelessness, superiority, and prideful self-sufficiency prevented them from hearing a priceless secret: one which would have helped them to succeed, to overcome as she and countless others had done. They thought they were equipped for life — but it was as if they were groping in the dark, their insistence that they could see just fine keeping them from benefiting from the light she held.
Her children would vie with each other in making sure she was physically comfortable — but they were so focused on their own views of things, their own worldview, that they never tried to understand hers.
And that is the greatest tragedy of all. Why? Her worldview is why they had been blessed, why they had succeeded, why their nation was like it was.
She died a few days later. Weeping, her children surrounded her bed — crying because they missed her but still not understanding the vision which carried her and countless others in covered wagons across a remote, Indian-infested prairie and eventually made the whole society they, the heirs, now enjoyed. They had missed out.
How can they ever change the world like that faithful band did if they don’t even care to understand and build on the ideas of those “old ones”? How can they properly reap the blessings from the civilization that was molded if they do not catch the vision of the ones who made it?
I turned the last page, closed the book, and, uncharacteristic for me (I never cry — ask my family!), broke out sobbing. What chord had resonated? I have seen this happen all too many times. Sweet, self-sacrificing parents stand against odds, climb obstacles, and persevere against difficulties to give their children not only a good education but also a godly one, not only an innovative vision but also an impressive one, not only a pure heart but also a heaven-focused one, not only a nontraditional way of life but also a notable one.
And then? Well, the children grow up. Many of them are genuinely grateful for the raising they had — but they’re also clueless. They seem to take for granted the blessings and advantages they have. They seem to think they can have their cake and eat it too: have the blessings that come from a set-apart raising and the delights of the World. They don’t care too much for the godly principles and wisdom of their parents. Worldly wisdom, attire, attitudes, and lifestyles seem far more attractive. And en masse — sometimes in a sudden flurry, other times ever-so-gradually — they slip their moorings and, taking the godly blessings their parents suffered to give them, drift happily out to the World.
Satan is luring them, whether they understand it and are openly rebellious or whether he’s hidden under pseudo-spiritual or psychological wording. Of course, our master-enemy is always tempting us, trying to lure us away. I catch in myself little attitudes of pride or condescension towards my parents and need to repent and turn. I’ve seen how quickly wrong thoughts snowball into something big and terrible if they’re not squashed quickly.
“Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.” (Jeremiah 6:16)
Does this touch a chord in you, too? Is there an unbroken string in you that vibrates still with the pathos, the waste, the missed opportunities of this?
This is a ringing challenge to me and to my fellow graduates from homeschools all over the nation.
Yes, we appreciate what’s been given us, but are we running blithely to the World, carrying our inherited blessings? Are we letting our sinful self and Satan put tiny wedge after tiny wedge between us and our parents — us and their beliefs?
Or will we turn back and try to understand and seek out our parent’s ideology and rich Biblical wisdom and make them our own, marching Christ-ward in the pioneering steps of our parents? I can assure you that it’s an exciting climb — a lifelong adventure of the highest order.
It’s a personal choice. May we, with Christ’s help, stand on our parent’s shoulders and conquer new territories for Him!