The following appeared in the Joplin Globe, and was written by my friend Jeff Swart, pastor of First Baptist Church, Galena, KS and a former pastor of First Baptist of Red Oak.

Thomas Carlyle married the woman who was his secretary—a woman that he loved very much. Carlyle would often become so absorbed in his personal business that he often treated her like she was an employee rather than his wife.

Several years later, his wife was diagnosed with cancer and confined to bed for many months before she died. After his wife’s funeral, Carlyle went home to an empty house. He went upstairs to the room where his wife died and sat down in a chair beside the now empty bed. Suddenly, he realized that he had not sat there very often during her long illness.

On a table beside the bed, Carlyle noticed his wife’s diary. He would not dare read it when she was alive, but now that she was gone, he felt free to read it. One entry read: “Yesterday he spent an hour with me. And it was like heaven. I love him so much.” He read a few more pages and found this entry: “I listened all day to hear his steps in the hallway. And now it’s late. I guess he won’t come to see me.”

After reading a few more similar entries, he threw the diary on the floor, and then ran through the rain to the nearby cemetery and fell on his wife’s muddy grave. Through his tears, he cried out: “If only I had known…if only I had known.”

Carlyle’s experience has been or will be experienced by us all. I am not speaking about losing a spouse to a terminal illness, but I am speaking about realizing too late the value of something or someone.

When my children were at home, people would often say to me, “Spend time with your children because they’ll be gone before you know it.” I would say, “I know” but the truth is I didn’t know. I didn’t know how fast the years that my children would live in my home would go and neither do most young parents.

Whenever a couple decides to bring a child into this world, they also made several other decisions at the same time. One of those decisions was to accept the fact that your primary responsibility in life is to raise your children. The Apostle Paul summarized God’s opinion on parenting when he declared: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

You will have plenty of time after your children are raised to work, to be president of Lion’s Club, to serve on the school board, etc. Right now, it is God’s will for you to be a godly person and a godly parent. Put God first in your life, your family second, and everything else in life after that. If you do, I guarantee that you will never say, “If only I’d known!”