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.
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.