Whatever you do for the least...

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

~ Khalil Gabran, the Lebanese American author, On Children, 1923 ~

My bow bends so far in these early days of a semester. My thoughts fly quickly and frequently to the duties of school, newly resumed, and seemingly so pressing. One class this semester calls for a hearty dose of self-reflection, and today one student spoke about how her children's interruptions remind her what is really important in life. I find this humbling, and wish I could say so myself. As it is, I find school so infinitely more interesting, noble, and worthy of consumption of my time (keep in mind I often speak tongue-in-cheek) than the more mundane, laborious, continuous work of raising children. I feel, at times, that it is a bit ridiculous that God gave me a brain for research and science, and now I am teaching sums, reading, phonics, taking dictation from a 6 year old (and all that is ignoring the mono-syllabic communication with my youngest). I remember pondering this same conundrum when wiping some unrelated child's behind for the 100th time in a shift: seriously, why is it that my scientific mind is reduced to such a task? Yet, the wiping of the behind was infinitely more important to that one child than all the research in the world at that moment.

In the gifting of these children from my womb, God has spoken loud and clear. Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. (Psalm 127:3) The trick is learning to drink the blessed cup that is offered. As in every stage of life, there is always a pasture that appears greener, more desirable. For me, in this time, it is often uninterrupted intellectual thought, or perhaps even an intellectual conversation with someone (!!), uninterrupted. Yet He has me walking this balance beam of school, work, children. Writing, grants, article to read; children, diapers, piles of unfolded laundry, dishes standing dirty in my sink. I have to take the dirt along with the intellectual polish.

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' (Matthew 24:40) While I can make the stretch and say that my research is like the trunk of the tree, with branches spreading help to many of the "least of these" for perhaps decades or centuries to come. Yet, it is so much more obvious that the least of these are the children around my knees, pulling on my arms and begging my attention when I would rather be devoting it elsewhere.

John Piper tweeted, on October 20th, 2008 (rather ironically, I thought), that one of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time. I pray that my research does not prove the same thing. I pray it is but a parallel line in the story of how a faithful servant brought glory to the King she serves.

Also culled from Piper's Twitter, yesterday:
First this. Then coronation.The crown has fallen from our head; woe to us, for we have sinned!” (Lamentations 5:16).