Tilda In Tears

You didn’t often see Tilda in tears, but she was crying now.

It was a sultry afternoon in September, warm enough for me to have left the front door open to let the breeze blow through. I was alone in the kitchen. I heard a car go by, and a dog barked in the distance, on the allotments behind the house. Then, there was someone crying. It sounded like a child.

I had two small children. I walked to the front door and looked out. It was coming from down the street, but the beech hedge was blocking the view. I stepped onto the pavement.

It was Tilda. She was standing in front of our neighbour’s narrow strip of garden, hands on the low stone wall, looking up at the bay window, with tears streaming down her face.

It wasn’t like her. She was small, lithe, and endlessly energetic, a little whippet of a child. She lived a few doors down the street. I won’t go into her history; there were unfortunate events early on, but now she was well looked after. She played with my daughter, from time to time; and, from time to time, we would take her to Sunday School.

"What’s the matter, Tilda?”

She turned towards me, a picture of misery. “It’s Barry’s birthday! I’m the only one that’s not invited!” She looked back at the big window. I could hear the noise from inside now, a babble of childish voices and the sound of music. “They’re all there off this street! There’s only me not going!” Then she pressed her little hands against her eyes, the fists clenched and the knuckles white.

What would you have done?

I took her into our house and sat her down in the kitchen. I gave her my handkerchief to dry her eyes, and when she blew her nose on it, I told her she could keep it. I couldn’t find any biscuits, so I made her a jam sandwich and got her a drink.

Then we went out to the allotment, and looked to see if we could find any frogs; and then we collected a few berries; and then I warned her not to eat anything she’d picked unless a grown-up told her it was all right: you know the sort of thing.

After a while, she seemed to be her old self again, and she went off down the back street in the direction of her home. I went back inside, and got myself another handkerchief. You never know when you’ll need one.

That was very wrong of Barry’s parents, wasn’t it? How thoughtless, how unkind, how cruel: to invite every child on the street except Tilda!

No, it was nothing of the sort. Their judgement was sound. They had done the right thing. They wouldn’t let Tilda into their house because they knew what she was like.

From an early age, she was an accomplished liar, a thief, and an expert shoplifter, slipping what she stole into her underwear, and screaming blue murder if anyone dared to challenge her on the way out. She stole money from my daughter, who was as good a friend to her as anyone could be. She was cruel to animals, and she killed the ones she could, including a cat which she then wheeled up and down the front street in a doll’s pram. There were other things; but you wouldn’t want to know about them.

While she was with me, Tilda was well-behaved, because she knew that it would work to her advantage. As soon as she was out of my sight, her real nature would reassert itself.

Now that you know something of Tilda’s real nature: what about ours? Are we any different? The bible tells us that despite the good opinion that we have of ourselves, man “is abominable and corrupt…man who drinks injustice like water!” (Job 15.16) Is that too hard to swallow? Be patient for a moment.

The writer of Proverbs puts this question to his readers: “Who can say, 'I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin'?” (Proverbs 20.9) Paul gives us God’s answer: “None is righteous, no, not one…no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3.10-12) This sad fact has serious consequences. John, speaking of the new Jerusalem, says: “nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.” (Revelation 21.27)

Why did Jesus Christ say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”? (Matthew 5.3) How can poverty be a blessing? Because the poor in spirit know that they have nothing to give, and that there is nothing they can do to save themselves, except to seek a Saviour, one who has compassion for the lost and the lonely, the helpless and the hopeless. They know this, that “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5.8)

I didn’t much like seeing Tilda in tears, even though I knew what kind of girl she really was. I don’t much like the thought of you reading this, then puffing and blowing and pursing your lips and sighing in exasperation and saying: “Oh, come on! I just can’t agree! It’s all a matter of interpretation!” This is the truth: if you will not bow the knee to Jesus Christ in this life, by turning to Him in repentance and faith as Saviour and Lord, then, when He returns, He will put His foot on your neck in judgement: For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.” (1 Corinthians 15.25)

The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us time and again that death “is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” (Ecclesiastes 7.2) It will be here before you know. Tilda was in tears for just a little while; but, at the end of this life, for those outside of Jesus Christ, it will be for ever. May I urge you this morning, or whenever you happen to come across these words, to consider your condition again, knowing that this is the future, according to the words of the Saviour himself: Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3.36)