I am excellent at feeling sorry for myself. I don’t need any help from anyone. I usually pile up any sympathy I’m given onto the wallowing-in-self-pity slagheap I have in my heart. My husband is good at pointing this out to me, thank the Lord. But even so, I am quite the martyr-complex extraordinaire. So if you’re anything like me, you might not enjoy what you’re about to read.
We had a ‘staycation’ recently. This is when you have a holiday at home, doing all the fun things you never usually get round to doing (aka ‘Kids, we can’t afford to go away, but there’s a nice park nearby we can go to….’). Thankfully we live in London, so there genuinely were lots of things to do. One day we went to see the Cutty Sark, which is an old British Tea Clipper (that’s a ship, folks) which has been restored so that you can visit it. Just a quick plug here: it’s actually brilliant. Please pay the ticket price and go aboard. Don’t just walk past and think you’ve seen it, that’s just silly. It’s non-profit, if that makes a difference to you.
Now of all the things to do in London, the Cutty Sark is not the most obvious choice if you’ve got three under-fives in tow. But the reason we went to see it is that my husband, Mr Clever, was one of the people who worked very hard for a long time restoring it and even, wonder of wonders, lifting it up into the air so that you can stand underneath it – behold:
So naturally, he wanted to show it to us. He didn’t get to give me the detailed tour he’d have liked to because of the aforementioned under-fives (who, incidentally, had a fantastic time), but it was lovely to see the results of his (and others’) hard work. One thing he enjoys about his job as a structural engineer is that when a project is finished, there’s something material and concrete (often in every sense) to look at and think, ‘I did that.’ Not out of pride, but just to have something to show for the toil. Even now he can’t refer to the ship as an ‘it,’ only a ‘she.’ This was his baby.
But as we were walking around and he was briefly explaining how they’d calculated the structural capacity of each bolt in the original iron frame, I realised something a bit sad. Even the people who love visiting the Cutty Sark will never really know how much work went into restoring it. The hours of calculating loads, of grappling over the budget vs. the integrity of the restoration, and the worrying about whether lifting the boat would really work (it’d never been done before, people!).
That’s life, isn’t it? In a fallen world, I doubt there is any job in which you always receive 100% satisfaction and appreciation for the work you put in:
‘Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life…
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground…’ (Genesis 3: 17;19)
Some days, and some jobs, are worse than others in this respect. Sometimes you have nothing at all to show for a day’s work. Sometimes you don’t see the fruit of your labour in this life. And I think one reason we, as parents, often get sympathy (for which I’m thankful!), is that the sweat-of-your-brow element of parenting is pretty tough, and the results are hard to measure. Would my daughter look any different if I’d been a lazy, selfish mother these past four years? Maybe not at first glance. But really I know that, because of the efforts I’ve made, my children are different than they could have been. And God-willing, one day they will be all grown up and might even thank me! And if not them, then I know the Lord is watching me:
‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.’ Colossians 3:24.
This is true for all of us. We shouldn’t expect ultimate reward for our work in this life, but instead we’re waiting for our inheritance from the Lord.
So the next time I’m cleaning poo off the carpet, or enduring another tantrum, or getting up at 3am again, I can remember that one day God will acknowledge what I’ve done – and also that frustrations in work are not just the lot of the mum. My husband has them at the office too. He may be able to see the Cutty Sark in its glory, but people don’t see his sweat and tears in the wrought iron frame, and he even has to pay to get in (outrageous)!