Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Retreat (as in quiet time away) (08/01/05)
- TITLE: Under the red apron
By Suzanne R
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Around me, chaos reigns. There are piles in each corner of the bedroom, over the coffee table, and the several ‘to do’ piles on the desk have collapsed into one major mess. The bed is unmade, the laundry basket is overflowing, the fridge is empty, the whole place is filthy and I’m expecting dinner guests tonight. My ‘in-box’ contains 149 unread emails, and the phones never stop, be it the fixed line phone, the cell phone or both ringing simultaneously. I’m behind in my daily Bible reading. The pile of dusty books next to the bed bear witness to how pathetic my good intentions are.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
I almost screamed, “Stop the world, I want to get off!” Instead, I dug out the red apron. Having retreated under the apron, I now sit still, looking somewhat silly.
In our technologically advanced world, we have many time and labour saving devices, a plethora of communication methods, and the ability to travel easily. We have every reason to achieve far more than ever before.
In the ‘good old days’, though, life was simpler.
Take Susannah’s life, for example. Married to a middle class minister, all Susannah had to do was support her husband in his ministry and raise their children. Not for her our crazy lifestyle of beeping palm pilots, phones, computers and more.
On the other hand, Susannah gave birth to nineteen children. That’s a lot to endure over twenty-one years. To watch nine of your babies die would send many insane. To homeschool ten children, including two with physical disabilities, can’t have been easy. Add to this the pressures of supporting her husband in a busy church parish, hosting countless visitors for meals in her home, and offering wise counsel to many women in the parish. Indeed, things were even busier when Susannah’s husband went away, with up to 200 people in her home for weekly meetings to hear her read sermons.
Even without the communication technology of the 21st century, there were many who would certainly be pulling at her dress, calling out to her, knocking at the door, writing letters and generally demanding a little piece of Susannah.
In such an environment, there was literally no place to which Susannah could retreat. Nevertheless, retreat was imperative. At work in the kitchen, peeling potatoes, chopping meat and vegetables or kneading bread, Susannah wore a large apron. Every family member knew that when she finally sat down and pulled the apron over her head, she was not to be disturbed. That was her time to reconnect with her Creator, Sustainer and Empowerer. She made sure it happened daily.
Wise Susannah knew what she needed. And because of that, she flourished. Under her tutelage, one son became a preacher who changed the face of his nation. John Wesley was his name. Through Susannah’s nurture of his creativity, young Charles became one of the most prolific songwriters the church has known. Centuries later, we still sing many of the powerful words penned by Charles Wesley. I wonder if he thought of his mother’s prayer times under the apron in that sometimes turbulent storm of a household when he wrote these words.
“Jesus, Lover of my soul, Let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, While the tempest still is high,
Hide me, O my Saviour hide, Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; Oh receive my soul at last!”
In our modern fast-paced world, we would do well to learn from Susannah Wesley.
As I emerge from under the red vinyl apron, life looks altogether different. It’s amazing what a difference spending time with God makes. Life is busy, yes. But oh, life is good.
I fold up the apron, put it away, make a list of the urgent tasks, and get on with my work. As of now, I’ll go back to making a high priority of that empowering daily quiet time. Regular interaction with my Sustainer is too important to neglect. As I busy myself around the home, my perspective correct at last, I hum another of Charles Wesley’s hymns.
“Oh for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King, the triumphs of His grace!”
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