I recently read a passage from a book titled Stepping Heavenward: One Women’s Journey to Godliness by Elizabeth Prentiss that really made me think. Written in the late 1800’s, this fictional account of a young girl named Kate is profoundly applicable for women today.
(In this scene, Kate, and her mother come to cheer up Miss Clifford, an affluent and ailing neighbor. In an effort to help her be less self-focused, Kate’s mother is teaching Miss Clifford how to sew.)
Mother showed her how to hold her needle and arrange her pattern…
“Make the object of your life right,” I heard Mother say, “and all these little details will take care of themselves.”
“But I haven’t any object,” Miss Clifford objected, “unless it is to get through these tedious days somehow. Before I was taken ill, my chief object was to make myself attractive to the people I met. And the easiest way to do that was to dress becomingly and make myself look as well as I could.”
“I suppose,” said Mother, ” that most girls could say the same. They have an instinctive desire to please, and they take what they conceive to be the shortest and easiest road to that end. It requires no talent, no education, no thought to dress tastefully; the most empty-hearted, frivolous young person can do it, provided she has the money enough. Those who can’t get the money make up for it by a fearful expenditure of precious time. They plan, they cut, the fit, they rip, they trim till they can appear in society looking exactly like everybody else.”
“But I never cut and trimmed,” said Miss Clifford.
“No, because you could afford to have it done for you. But you acknowledge that you spent a great deal of time in dressing because you thought that the easiest way of making yourself attractive. But it does not always follow that the easiest way is the best way, and sometimes the longest way round is the shortest way home.”
Reading this passage caused me to ask difficult questions:
In what ways do I assume to take the shortest and easiest way, even when I know that way is not true? How do I allow culture to define who I am? Do I allow fear to drive me toward wasteful thinking and action? Where do I falsely believe that I “never cut and trim.” Am I concerned with the care and keeping of my body for the purpose of having the strength to glorify God through the work He has uniquely created me to do? Or is my focus on making myself attractive to others? These questions sting, but shed light in areas I am easily distracted.
The course of 150 years has not changed the problem of “most girls” in thier battle with significance. But I am encouraged. I’m not alone when I fight to keep my focus on Christ and who He says I am. You aren’t alone either. When we focus on Christ and his Truth we can be victorious. His truth stands strong and is available for all who are willing to take the long way home.
“Then you will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free.”