A tiny girl was making mud pies in the back yard. She was giving herself whole-heartedly to the work, pressing and patting the little pies into shape and laying them out on a board in the sun to bake. She was completely absorbed in her task. It was the most important thing in the world!
Mother came to the door and called, “Betty! Come here.”
The little maiden never paused in her work, nor lifted her eyes, nor turned her head. Calmly she patted on, and simply answered, “Tan’t!”
“Oh, yes, you can. Mother wants you.”
Still Betty patted pies, and confident finality replied again, “Tan’t!”
Mother was not accustomed to permitting such independence, but she knew the springs of action; so she merely remarked; “Well, mother doesn’t like to eat all the ice cream herself.”
A little hand stopped in mid-air, a little head was lifted, a pair of big brown eyes gazed startled into mother’s, seeking confirmation of an implied delight. It was there. And then Betty arose, dignity striving against haste; and brushing down her skirts with mud-streaked hands, she declared, “I tan’t; but I dess I will!”
We older ones are making our mud pies too. We are tremendously busy at building houses, or cooking dinners, or writing books, or driving automobiles. Perhaps we are president of our club, or secretary of our association, or organizer of a charity drive, or general adviser to our community. The most important work in the world! We can’t leave it; we can’t pause for even a minute to consider anything else. A call comes in the insistent tones of duty, “Come here!” But our hands keep on with their accustomed motions, our eyes are bent upon the task that absorbs our time and energies, and we only answer impatiently, “Can’t!”
Well enough if the work that engrosses our attention is truly the most important work in the world. But shall we not first make sure of that? Building or farming or keeping house is not the most important work in the world. Achieving success in business, in literature, in politics, in society, is not the most important work in the world. Making a living is not all there is to life. Making a mark in transient history is not making a success. We need to lift our eyes at times, to rest our hands from the round of petty duties that confine us, to see beyond, to take in the wider horizon and the duties and joys it compasses. We need a broader vision. And when we get that broader vision and are called to the larger life, then, under the compulsion of a greater duty, we will abandon our constricted attitude. “We can’t; but we guess we will!”
The most important work in the world is the work of parents. The home is the foundation of society, the bulwark of the state, the citadel of the church. “The work of parents underlies every other. Society is composed of families, and is what the heads of families make it. . . . The well-being of society, the success of the church, the prosperity of the nation, depend upon home influences.”—The Ministry of Healing, p. 349.
We need better training to be the right kind of parent. The home is the first school, and its aim and methods almost certainly determine the future of the child. “Never will education accomplish all that it might and should accomplish until the importance of the parents’ work is fully recognized, and they receive a training for its sacred responsibilities.”—Education, p. 276……
The Christian home is a school of the Christ life. What Jesus was, that the children in the Christian home are taught to be. If they are trained in the Christ life when they are children, then in their manhood and womanhood they will be like Jesus, “who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him.” Acts 10:38. Society would be transformed if there were everywhere Christian homes. The power of habit is next to unbreakable. If the habits formed in childhood are good, they are a bulwark for righteousness in the adult life; if they are bad, they are to the majority insuperable obstacles to reform and right doing. Such men may long for a better life, but they are mastered by the weaknesses and wrong tendencies to which they have become habituated. Even with the few who do break away from evil, and by the grace of God become converted, there is often left to be carried throughout the rest of life a load of ill health, enfeebled faculties, and weakened will, that prevents their giving to God and to the world their due service. The Great Divide is the home of childhood: a stream that is started in one direction will in the vast majority of cases never turn the other way.
Upon parents, then, lies a responsibility greater than that which rests upon the rulers of nations, the leaders of the church, or the public teachers of the youth. The man and the woman who unite their lives for the making of a new home assume the most tremendous obligations. They have not only, like rulers, to use life, or, like teachers, to shape life; they have to institute life, and to launch it upon its career of time and eternity. But for them there would be no souls to lose or to save; no doing of deeds great or mean; no experiences of happiness or of misery; no judgment to be met or reward to be received. Parents are the primary power in human life and society. They determine whether life is to be, and if it is, how it shall be directed. They are the arbiters of fate.
If Christianity is to win, it must not fail to create Christian homes.
~ Taken from Makers of the Home, by Arthur Whitefield Spalding, pp. 7, 8, 16, 17.