For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.–Romans 8:38-39

Crystal Stair

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Mother to Son
by Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it, and splinters,
and boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s, and turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark where there ain’t been no light.
So, boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps ’cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey, I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

This poem is one of our favorite poems to recite together as a family. It’s cadence, the broken English, the word picture being created, are all reminders of that old school wisdom that can only come from a life of hardship and perseverance and faith and hope for a better future.

Sometimes I’m tempted to erect a crystal stair for my family and myself, creating a carefree world with splinter-free, waxed flooring, plush carpet, ample lighting, and matching fixtures. It would be pristine. Easy going. There would be no reason to turn back, because the scenery would be grander with every step.

We all want what’s “best” for ourselves and our children. But sometimes what’s best may not feel so good at the time. When my 3 year old son is instructed to do something he doesn’t like, or if it’s scary, or difficult, he will often respond in his most pouty voice, “I don’t like that good idea!” or sometimes he’ll say, “That’s not a great idea!” I’m grateful that he acknowledges there’s at least some “good” in what he’s being instructed to do, although he makes it clear that it’s not “great” enough to warrant him doing it joyfully!

It’s not easy or pleasant to think of hardships and struggles as something worth climbing for, but I’m reminded that there is a great reward at the end of that rocky, splintery staircase.

“…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

–Romans 5:3-5

But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

–1 Peter 2:20-21

So life ain’t supposed to be no crystal stair. The tacks, splinters and darkness are all for a purpose. We struggle and work and toil and endure and overcome and experience joy and victory and grace, all for the name of Christ.

As my husband keenly stated, “Jesus smashed the crystal stair!” Indeed He did! So now I’m challenged and encouraged. Challenged to smash the crystal stair mentality in my own life and heart, and encouraged to know that as I climb those rickety, splintery stairs, I’m increasingly reachin’ landin’s and turnin’ corners ordained by my dear Father for my good and more importantly, for His glory.

Author: Kristie

Kristie is a pastor's wife, mom, Bible teacher, and author of His Testimonies, My Heritage: Women of Color on the Word of God, which will be released in September. She currently serves as the Associate Director of Women's Workshops for the Charles Simeon Trust, helping to equip women Bible teachers. She joyfully supports her husband of almost 28 years, Thabiti, as he pastors Anacostia River Church in Washington, DC. They have 3 children. She has written contributions to the ESV Women's Devotional Bible; Word-Filled Women's Ministry: Loving and Serving the Church; Women on Life: A Call to Love the Unborn, Unloved and Neglected; and Hospitality Matters: Reviving an Ancient Practice for Modern Missions. Her work can also be found at The Front Porch, The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, Christianity Today, and Revive Our Hearts. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@kanyabwile).

One thought on “Crystal Stair

  1. Thanks for reminding me of this poem. I haven’t thought of it in years.

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