What in life actually lasts?
This honey raisin muffin I’m eating while I type this sure doesn’t. A clean house? Nope. A cute new pair of shoes? Not only will they not last, but they will probably hurt your feet by the end of the first day. My husband works in customer service for an RV factory. He helps people get their units fixed — but even that doesn’t last. One day those RVs will litter a junkyard.
Everything I can think of that we consume does not last. In fact, the economy is predicated upon the fact that we will buy more. Most of the work we do, we must do again and again. What about relationships? Friendships might last for a lifetime … or they might not. Either way, they will cease when the people pass away.
But I, like most people, I think, want to spend my time investing in something that matters and something that lasts. Perhaps I meditate upon this because so much of what I do on a daily basis hardly lasts through the day — and usually not even through the hour. Clean clothes last the day at best; consumed meals last about three hours; clean floors last about two minutes.
The closest I can come to thinking of something that lasts is in creating something that transforms people’s hearts toward the good, true, and beautiful. As a mom, I have a handy captive audience. If I spend my time in forming their hearts to love what is good, true, and beautiful and in teaching them how to discern it, that time is spent on something that matters and something that lasts, for these children will one day grow up and will likely become parents themselves. If they also take up the task of forming the good, true, and beautiful in their own children, the work I have done will last far longer than most other occupations.
Of course, so much of what I just lamented as being temporary can be at the service of teaching the good, true, and beautiful. It is good to make a nourishing meal. It is good to break bread together and to invite an extra person to your table. It is good to restore order out of chaos. It is good to do small things, like fold the laundry, with great love. In the end, though, we must utilize these exceedingly fleeting activities to slowly construct something eternal. It can “just” be housework — or it can be transformed into a moment for teaching and a moment for love.
For those who don’t have biological children, we are all called to be spiritual parents. Perhaps you cannot spend hours teaching children who are obliged to listen to you, but you have far more leeway in terms of time and scope of your mission field. If you aren’t the type to teach religion classes or invite your lonely neighbor to your house, can you make something beautiful? Art, music, and stories that point to what is good, true, and beautiful are also nearly eternal — witness the lamentation over the burning of Paris’s Notre Dame. Perhaps your own art won’t be seen by millions, but can it touch the hearts of a few? Those few could be inspired, then, and pass it on. The short of it is this: only souls last. Invest in souls.
I say this so often on my blog and to myself: hidden does not equal small. Our lives as parents can seem so inconsequential, especially as our children have also been given the gift of free will (and use it!). But there is no other job that I can think of that has the opportunity for longer effects. I remember my grandparents but know hardly anything of my great-grandparents. Not knowing the facts about them is not what I am talking about. The important thing is that they formed my grandparents who formed my parents who formed me. Sure, my great-grandchildren probably will know nothing about how absent-minded I am, but at least something of my efforts to form their grandparents will be transmitted to them. That is work that matters and work that lasts.
Copyright 2019 Amanda Woodiel