I looked up the invention of permanent press fabric and must have found half a dozen dates. Chemical companies, fabric companies, and clothing manufacturers all seem to claim a share of the glory all the way back to the 1930s. Then in 1956 there was a patent that simply claims to be the invention of permanent press. The problem was the way it was produced. The resin on the cloth made the cloth stiff, uncomfortable to wear, and easily split when it was sewn. Koret of California finally received a patent on March 14, 1961, for an improved method of manufacturing press-free crease-retained garments made with smooth, comfortable fabric that held up. I barely remember the first time my mother bought my father a permanent press dress shirt so that date is just about right. And all that brought something to mind.
Maybe this is one of those urban legends that everyone has heard from someone. I am really not certain, but Keith’s mother once told us about a young woman who began attending services with them back in the 1950s with her three young children, the oldest about 6. She arrived just on time and left quickly. But unlike many of those types, she was always there, her children knew the basic Bible stories, and she herself was attentive to both class and sermon. In fact her keeping to herself seemed to be more a product of embarrassment than anything else.
My mother-in-law, astute observer that she was, had noticed something. The children were always neat, clean, and combed except for one thing—their clothes were always wrinkled. This was back before the day of permanent press and polyester. There is nothing quite as wrinkled as old-fashioned cotton—except maybe wrinkled linen—which was way beyond this woman’s means.
I forget now how she managed to ask. Maybe it was the offer of an iron, which I know she was generous enough to do. Knowing my mother-in-law though, she probably just came out and asked. However she did it, she got an answer.
The woman’s husband was not a Christian. He not only refused to attend services with her, he refused to get up and help her get the children ready. So every week after their Saturday evening bath, she dressed them for church and then put them to bed. The next morning it was easier to get the three tykes up and fed and herself dressed for church.
After all these years, I’ve heard nearly every excuse in the world for missing Bible classes or the morning services altogether. This young woman could have easily pulled two or three off the list and used them. So why didn’t she? I can think of three good reasons.
First, she loved the Lord. Nothing and no one was going to come between her and her Savior. She knew the perils of allowing excuses to keep her away from the spiritual nutrition her soul needed, and she was not so arrogant as to think she could feed herself with no help at all. “I can have a relationship with God without the church,” I have heard more times than I can count. She knew better.
And because she had her first priority correct, the others fell right in line. She loved her children, but more than that she loved her children’s souls. She had to combat not only the usual onslaught of the world, but the huge impact of a father’s bad example. She was still in her early 20s so she had probably married quite young, too young to really understand the challenges of this “mixed” marriage, maybe even so naïve that she thought “love would conquer all” and he would change easily. Now she knew better, but she was more than ever determined to save her children.
And despite it all, she loved her husband and his soul too. She knew that any little chink in her armor would allow him the rationale he needed to remain apathetic to her faith. She understood Peter’s command in 1 Pet 3:1,2, Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. The more he resisted, the stronger she needed to be, and if taking her children to church in wrinkled clothes did the trick, then that’s what she would do.
This young woman shows us all that excuses can be overcome by pure will. Certainly we are not talking about the truly old, ill, and otherwise unable to go out either regularly or on occasion when there is truly a “bad day.” We are talking about people who allow a little, or even a lot of trouble to become too much trouble to serve God. I know many who work around the hurdles and snags that Satan throws in our paths. It costs them time, money, and a whole lot of extra energy, but they have their priorities straight. They know who comes first, and they understand that our modern “sacrifices” are an insult to the word.
If finding excuses comes easily for me, maybe I need to consider throwing out my permanent press and wearing some wrinkled clothes.
And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. But he said unto him, A certain man made a great supper; and he bade many: and he sent forth his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse…And the servant came, and told his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor and maimed and blind and lame. And the servant said, Lord, what thou didst command is done, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and constrain them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, that none of those men that were bidden shall taste of my supper. Luke 14:15-24.