By Elmer Ellsworth Shelhamer
"And He said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest a while: for there were many coming and going and they had no leisure so much as to eat." Mark 6:31.
If the devil cannot keep a man in obscurity he will let him become so popular and in such demand that he will have little time for prayer, reading and meditation. When these three things do not stand out prominently in a minister's life, he ought to make for the woods or stop preaching. It is not enough to go through with the form, or make-believe, but the whole soul must be inundated frequently in order to be fresh and inspiring. Sad to say that about the time most preachers acquire more or less ability as soul winners, they are sidetracked into doing something else. The successful man is bid for and as a result becomes loaded down with various things, such as committee work, board (bored) meetings, correspondence, lecturing on prohibition, raising money for schools, rescue homes, church dedications, etc. All these things may be worthy, but there are plenty of good men who are capable of doing the same, without diverting the man of God from his original calling. We have only about so much energy anyway and it pleases the devil to have us use it up on some "side line," when vastly greater returns would be produced by holding to the main line. As one has said, "Many a man's spirituality has been buried in the grave of his activities." How true!
Here is where perhaps, I have made a mistake: I have been too busy. Of late years I have lived such a public life that I have failed to be as domestic as I should have been. Having been an evangelist and District Elder for thirty-five years has necessitated my being away from home most of the time. At first it was not so serious as wife and little girl could accompany me. But later, when we had three children and they needed schooling, this plan was abandoned, and I did not see my family for from one to four months. After a long absence from home I have had to put forth special effort to get acquainted with my own children.
I fear there are few men, myself included, who are broad enough and deep enough to be intensely spiritual and thoroughly domestic at the same time. Domestic cares have a tendency either to make one more sympathetic and magnanimous, or on the other hand to make him narrow and exacting. In too many instances the latter is the case. If one insists on making a success of the home, he will not be at his best in soul saving; and if he gives himself up fully to the work of the Lord, then the home is apt to be neglected. I have wondered if it was not a mistake for Christian workers who have no children to adopt them. Parental affection is lacking and to set in to cultivate it, one does so at the expense of spiritual development and passion for souls.
For twenty years or more, I have, under God, been able to do about three men's work; and as a result my mind has been so pre-occupied by business cares and religious responsibilities -that sometimes my apparent indifference and absent-mindedness have been a source of trial to others.
I am writing these lines with tears as I remember our sweet, blue-eyed, golden-haired baby girl, who, when she occasionally slipped into the study where I was battling with a stack of mail or working on a new book, would whisper or speak in an undertone to her mother and say, "Papa." She seemed to feel she was intruding. Though I generally smiled and gave her a kiss, I feel a sense of sadness now that I did not take more time to let her climb up into my arms and "yove" (love) me. But I was too busy. I would give a great deal if I could once more hold that well-poised little form which now sleeps up on the silent hill. Had I only known that the little blossom would have been with us so short a time, I would gladly have given her some of the time I have spent in tears, kneeling at the little grave.
And what have I learned from all this? I have learned that being too much absorbed, even in good things, is not best for soul, mind or body. Solomon must have known something about it when he said, "Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness to the flesh."
Perhaps God has to do as the gardener does, transplant some flowers in order that those that remain may have more room for enlargement. He has to let sorrow and adversity come, in order to slow some of us down, and get us back to the good old days of quietude and meditation.
I have aimed at crowding 80 years into 60. The object has been to accomplish in 60 years, what most men of my ability and opportunity accomplish in 80. The more quickly I can get on interest my capital the better.
Yes, I fear I have lost much by being so busy, buying up every moment of time and wishing I could buy at a fancy price what others wasted. While I would rather take this course than the easy-going, self-indulgent life that most people live, yet I am reminded that Jesus said. "Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with... the cares of this life, and that day come upon you unawares." Luke 21:34.