Once upon a time in the Kingdom of God there was a Mother. She was an ordinary, middle-aged mother of two children. There was nothing notable about her. She was, in fact, anonymous; she had no name. And she never attempted to erase her anonymity. She was simply a Mother.

On Sunday, the Mother went to church with her family: her son Peter, who was ten years old; her daughter Susan, who was sixteen; and her husband Edgar, who went but thought it all nonsense.

On Sunday, the Sunday-school superintendent approached the Mother.

“Would you please help us in the primary department? We are very short of teachers. You have been with us for six years now, and I’m sure that you could cope nicely with the first graders. Please, for the sake of the Lord’s work?”

But the Mother said, “Oh, I couldn’t do that. I have no talents. I’ve never been to college or had any Bible courses. I am just a poor soul who needs the teaching of the Pastor. I just couldn’t teach anyone else.”

On Sunday also, the Pastor talked with the Mother. “Would you be willing to have your home used for a Bible-study group? We are forming some groups that meet in homes so that neighbors can be invited. There would be a regular teacher, and people would take turns bringing refreshments. All we need is your living room. Would you consider it?”

The Mother said, “I would like to do it. But you see, I do not make decisions about our home. That is my husband’s job. Since he is not very keen on religion, I don’t think that he would like me to do that sort of thing. I’m sorry.”

The sermon that Sunday was about the parable of the talents and the three servants. It was especially about the unprofitable servant who buried the one talent.

On Monday, Peter went to school. When he was ready to leave the house Peter yelled to the Mother, “Hey, where is my lunch money? Can’t you ever get it out ahead of time? I’ll miss the bus.”

The Mother said, “Oh dear. I can never seem to remember. Here it is. Don’t be angry with me, darling.” She kissed Peter good-bye. He said, “Aw, Mom, cut it out.”

When Peter came home from a school he had a great deal of homework to do. But he wanted to go to his friend’s house until dinner time. He ignored his Mother’s lecture about getting his work done. “Mom, quit bothering me. All you do is nag. I’m going over to Harry’s. I’ll be home at six. I can do my homework after supper.”

But after supper he wanted to watch television. He finally went to bed about ten. His homework was not done.

When Peter grew up he could never finish his work on time. He did not know that one did not speak to one’s superiors the way he spoke to the Mother. And so they fired him for being insubordinate and unable to produce.

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On Tuesday, Edgar left for the gas station that he owned. He worked hard at the station and usually stayed there till late at night. But he cheated people who had more money than he had because he was jealous of them and thought they deserved to be cheated. He was mean to the young man who worked for him. It made him feel powerful and important to have his employee afraid of him.

The Mother kept the accounts for Edgar because it saved him money.

“Edgar, are you going to tell the tax people that you made only that much profit?”

“Edgar, you charged the Van Heinzes much more than you charged George for the same job.”

“Edgar, you seem to be selling more gas than you are receiving from the company. Where are you getting it from?”

Edgar laughed and told the Mother how clever he was to cheat the government, and the rich, and the corporation. She did not say anything more to him about it. She knew how mean he was to the young man who worked for him, and she was afraid he might be mean to her, too.

One day, some men came to the gas station and gave Edgar a summons to appear in court. He could not understand why he should be caught doing something everybody did. The Mother thought she knew why, but she didn’t want to say anything just now, when Edgar was in such trouble.

On Wednesday, the mail came. There was a magazine for Susan. It was called Proved Tales, and the cover picture was of a man and a woman kissing each other very hard.

On Wednesday, the Mother watched television most of the day, because she felt depressed. But after seeing all those people with the same kind of troubles she had, she felt even more depressed. Sometimes she wondered if she could think as clearly after watching television. All she could remember were the songs about soap and collars and toothpaste. She did laugh at the funny programs. It was clever how they all managed to trick one another and never get caught for lying.

On Wednesday evening, some neighbors dropped in. They talked about the terrible things that were going on in the world. They talked a great deal about a woman down the street and all the men who visited her. They laughed about that. The Mother just sat there. She didn’t want to take part in that kind of talk, but she dared not offend her guests.

On Thursday, Susan came home from school. She looked worried.

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“Susan dearest, is anything wrong? Did you get a bad mark in school? Was someone mean to you? I couldn’t stand that, dear. You’re such a sweet girl … and you work so hard …”

Susan looked disgustedly at her mother and said nothing. But she went on looking worried. She talked on the telephone a long time. The Mother didn’t know whom she was talking to, and she didn’t want to disturb Susan’s privacy by asking her later. She felt that a mother shouldn’t meddle.

After supper, Susan said, “I’m going out with Roger. My homework is done.”

The Mother said, “Oh, I wish you would stay home with me just one evening. Roger always seems to come first. Don’t stay out too late.” And the Mother smiled a wistful smile at Susan.

The Mother could never understand why Susan had an abortion.

On Friday, the Mother was taking out the garbage when she saw the woman next door looking out a window. She looked sad, or perhaps sick. The Mother pretended she hadn’t seen her. Then she began to feel a little guilty. The woman had lived next door for a long time. Sometimes she invited the Mother in for coffee. But the Mother had never invited the woman to her house. She liked her very much, but she thought that the woman was too busy. She also knew that this neighbor did not believe in God, or go to church. The Mother was very afraid of offending her. So she never mentioned anything to do with religion.

A few days later an ambulance came to the house next door. The woman was brought out on a stretcher. She was dead. She had been extremely lonely and depressed, and she had taken a bottle of sleeping pills with a large glass of whiskey.

On Saturday, while the Mother was working, she remembered a little about the sermon on the previous Sunday. She didn’t know why the master had been so angry at the servant who buried the money in the ground. It was a natural mistake to make, she thought. God was a God of love. If she was sincere, and she was sure that she was sincere, He would make everything come right in the end.

But she still felt a little guilty about the woman next door. It bothered her that Edgar was doing the things he was doing. It didn’t seem fair that Peter should talk back and be so disobedient, or that Susan should turn sullen. But what could she do? She was a good Mother. She obeyed her husband and did everything for her children. She went to church almost every week. And she never swore.

That night, the Mother stood face to face before the Great Lion of Judah. He was not at all as she had pictured Him to be. For an instant, she thought those sweet Christmas stories must have been mistaken.

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“Have you been my faithful servant?” His voice was like the thunder of a great organ, and his blazing eyes … She could not look into them, but she could look nowhere else, either. She thought that she had never been so uncomfortable.

“Why yes, Lord, I think so. I have always done my best …”

She saw His eyes become more and more stern.

“I will have the truth from you.”

“Yes, Lord …” and she tried to start again but couldn’t. There was just nothing to say.

Then His voice began to say what her own lips could not.

“You have let your husband become a petty crook. You never once rebuked him or counseled him. Your submission was perverted. Your son will fail throughout his life because he was taught neither to work nor to obey. Your daughter is disgraced because she was never forbidden to do anything. Your neighbor is lost for all eternity for want of the friend that you could have been to her. You permitted evil in your home through cheap communications, immoral entertainment, and gossip. Your church, which asked for your services, is poorer because you never entered into its life. You took but you would not give.”

The voice rolled over her in heavy, inescapable sound. There was no argument. There could be no argument. His voice spoke only truth.

Then she saw His eyes become warm and loving.

“It’s all right. He will forgive me.” Indeed, those magnificent eyes filled with tears.

“Child, I died on the cross so that you might become great in the Kingdom of God.”

And the Mother seemed to see a Great Woman, beautiful to look upon, surrounded by loving friends. There was a man just behind her, strong and straight and even a bit noble in appearance, though he was dressed in coveralls. There was a young man beside the Great Woman, smiling and speaking gently to her. A young mother stood on the other side of the Great Woman, tenderly whispering to her baby while her husband smiled lovingly at them both.

“That is only the beginning of the good that you could have done, had you come to me for one thing.”

“O Lord, what was that one thing?”

“You feared all things more than me and so you failed in all things. The fear of me has come too late. If you had feared me soon enough, you would not have feared your family and your place in the Kingdom. So you have betrayed me. You were a coward and wanted to stay that way. You would not let me make you strong. I cannot change my Word, and it is now your judge: “Whoever wins the victory will receive this from me: I will be his God, and he will be my son. But the cowards … the place for them is the lake burning with fire … the second death.”

His face was very sad. For the first time she was stricken for another instead of herself. She was just beginning to understand that she was the cause of His sorrow.

“O Lord, Lord …”

The end had come. The end of all things had come. He turned away and it became very dark. It was very, very cold. There was no time. There was nothing.

The Mother was absolutely alone.

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