I’ve been re-reading A Christmas Carol, because it’s just so darn festive, and it makes you glad you live here and now, and it makes you thankful that you can go to the hospital when you’re ill, and did I mention that it’s festive?
I wanted to show you this passage from ‘Stave Two – the First of Three Spirits,’ because it’s a lovely picture of childhood happiness. Here the narrator (not Scrooge!) is describing a scene in which a large family of children play around with their adult sister. I wish it had been their mother, but I think it probably is the sister and you just can’t rewrite Dickens! But let’s just say it could just have easily been their mum! You’ll see the narrator is really gushing over this young lady, and he can’t believe the audacity of her little brothers who are clambering all over her without any hint of inhibition. I don’t know if you read much Dickens (!), but I think you should probably read this passage a couple of times through. It’s worth it.
They were in another scene and place, a room, not very large or handsome, but full of comfort… The noise in this room was perfectly tumultuous, for there were more children there than Scrooge in his agitated state of mind could count… The consequences were uproarious beyond belief; but no one seemed to care; on the contrary, the mother and [eldest] daughter laughed heartily, and enjoyed it very much; and the latter, soon beginning to mingle in the sports, got pillaged by the young brigands most ruthlessly. What would I not have given to be one of them! Though I never could have been so rude, no, no! I wouldn’t for the wealth of all the world have crushed that braided hair, and torn it down; and for the precious little shoe, I wouldn’t have plucked it off, God bless my soul! to save my life… And yet I should have dearly liked, I own, to have touched her lips; to have questioned her, that she might have opened them; to have looked upon the lashes of her downcast eyes, and never raised a blush; to have let loose waves of hair, an inch of which would be a keepsake beyond price; in short, I should have liked, I do confess, to have had the lightest license of a child, and yet to have been man enough to know its value.
I think Dickens has really captured something true and beautiful about childhood here. The last part describes, I think, a universal truth about kids. By the time children are old enough to appreciate the blessing of relationships they have, those relationships have changed and they can’t go back to being children. By the time your children appreciate all of the times you’ve changed their nappies, often while they thrash around and scream, they’ll probably be changing their own children’s nappies. I’m not saying they don’t appreciate anything, but from their childish perspectives they can’t see the value of their parents (or other people in their lives) in the way that they will once their grown-ups. They enjoy the relationships massively, but they’re not ‘man enough to know their value’. And actually, like the children in the Dickens scene, they enjoy you more because of it.
This isn’t a bad thing. So much of what you do for your children, and what you give them – and the fact that often it’s yourself you’re giving them – is taken for granted by your children. My husband has said to me more than once, ‘The kids take you for granted, and that’s how it should be.’ I know that sounds a bit strange, because we think of ‘taking for granted’ as being necessarily negative. But he means that they expect me to be there, always, and to keep being Mum. It’s a given. You might – I hope – have people around you who appreciate what you’re doing with your life. They know that you’ve made sacrifices for your children, and that, frankly, your kids are very privileged to spend so much time with you. But your kids don’t know any of that. Even if you say to them (which I hope you don’t), ‘I gave up a rewarding and lucrative job for you!’ or something similar, they still won’t get it. You’re their Mum (or Dad) – and they can’t take a step back and see you in any other light.
But most of the time, even if you’ve got lovely family and friends who appreciate you, nobody sees what you do. There is no omniscient narrator, no fly-on-the-wall cherishing the happy moments in your home, or sympathising with you when everything happens at once and you’re really being tested. You can tell your spouse or a friend at the end of the day, but it’s not really the same. But, (and I suppose you know where I’m going with this) there is someone who sees everything you do. And He thinks you’re precious, He values you, and He forgives your wrongs as well. Please be encouraged, especially in the run up to Christmas, with all of the shopping and the list-making and the running between Nativity plays, that God values you most highly. One day, you’ll meet God face to face and he’ll say, if you’re trusting in Christ, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’ and it will all have been worth it. In the new creation, nobody will underestimate or overlook you. Alleluia!
But there’s something else that we mustn’t forget. When we serve our children, especially when it’s hard for us, we’re following the example of our Lord and Saviour. There’s One whose entire life was a sacrifice. He gave himself, and not for people who loved him and liked to play games and kiss him, but for his enemies. There’s One who knew that only God his Father valued him. The King who didn’t even have a bed to be born in; the King who was a child refugee; the King who as an adult ‘had nowhere to rest his head.’ There’s One who was underappreciated beyond our understanding – who was priceless, and yet was killed like a worthless criminal. And in the end, when we see face to face King Jesus, who is our role-model and our righteousness, we won’t be saying, ‘Oh, finally someone who appreciates me!’ We’ll be casting our crowns before Him – the One who is worthy of all the glory and honour and praise.