What Could Have Been Done More?

Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)

(Chapter 5 from Dr. Hyle's excellent sermon book, Woman The Completer)

Isaiah 5:1-4, "Now will I sing to my well beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: and he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, 0 inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?"

We are strange creatures. We plan what we are going to do ... when I get out of high school, when I get married, when I have a baby, when my children get old enough to walk, when the children go to school. It seems that basically we look forward all the time. That's the first part of life. The last part of life seems to be spent lamenting the fact that we did not do what we planned in the first part of life.

It seems that we never do today what we planned yesterday to do tomorrow and will wish tomorrow that we had done today. Today is the only material with which yesterdays are made. Today is yesterday's tomorrow and today is tomorrow's yesterday. All the things you planned yesterday to do today, you will remember tomorrow if you did them.

One of our young men who had wasted most of his life in riotous living literally killed his dad prematurely by his life. The young man was in the hospital room where his dad had just passed away. He went up to his dad's body, not yet cold in death, and threw himself upon the form of his lifeless father. He put his arms around his dad and got his dad's arms and put them around himself until he was hugging his father and his father's lifeless arms were hanging around his shoulders. The young man said, "Hug me, Daddy! Hug me, Daddy! Hug me, Daddy! Hug me, Daddy." But it was too late! Daddy couldn't hug back. Then he put his lips against his dad's lips that were stilled in death and began to kiss him. He said, "Daddy, kiss me back! Kiss me back, Daddy! Daddy, kiss me!" It was too late! Daddy could not kiss back! Daddy will never kiss back.

The text is, "What could have been done more?"

The song says, "By and by when I look on His face, I'll wish I had given Him more."

"Our Heavenly Father, for these moments we pause to look at life and to examine what I guess is the most common failure of human nature. I pray that in these few moments together we shall glean a truth that will help us not to have to say with lament someday, 'What could have been done more?' Amen."

1. What could have been done more for your mother?

She lies in state. There are flowers all around the casket and there are friends and loved ones behind you. You walk down to the front of the auditorium and view her body. You touch the eyes that first saw you. You note her body which was your first dwelling place. You rub her hands--hands that were once your Florence Nightingale. You look at her breast over which her hands rest and remember that there was your first dining table. You notice her lips--lips that spoke your first, "I love you." You notice her ears--ears that "walked the midnight watch" to hear your cry. You notice her arms that are crossed across her breast. Those are the arms that embraced you for the first time, and the face is the one that received your first kiss. The cheeks are those that were warmed with tears for you. You touch those cheeks, wrinkled for you, and you stroke the hair that was whitened for you. Suddenly you realize for the first time that you have no mother! All of a sudden you grow up. You are an adult now. For the first time in your life you have to say, "I have no mother." Then you ask the question, "What could have been done more?"

You cannot write letters to her then. You cannot kiss her then. You cannot hug her then. You cannot say, "I love you!" then. You cannot care for her needs then. You cannot call her long distance then. You cannot write a check to help support her then. All you can do is look, remember and ask, "What could have been done more?"

I don't know what you're going to do, but I'm going to try to be the best son I can be to my mother. I'm not going to look at my mother's face one day and wish I had done more.

I was preaching in a little town in Arkansas, a few years ago. I walked in the church that night and saw my book table out in the lobby. A little lady walked up, and said, "Dr. Hyles, could I help you at your book table?"

I said, "I'm sorry, but three ladies have already been chosen."

She said, "Could my husband and I take you out to eat after the service tonight?"

"No, I'm sorry, I don't eat after I preach."

"Could we take you out for lunch tomorrow?"

"I'm sorry. We're having a preachers' luncheon tomorrow and a question--answer session."

"Could we take you out to dinner tomorrow night?"

"No, ma'am, I don't like to eat a meal before I preach."

"Could we take you to the airport Wednesday morning?"

"No, I'm sorry. A preacher who is having some problems in his church asked if he could drive me to the airport. I'm very sorry."

She put her head in her arms on the table and began to beat the table with her hands.

I said, "Little lady, why are you weeping and why do you want so badly to do something for me?"

She looked at me and said, "Dr. Hyles, you don't even know me, do you?"

I said, "No, I don't."

She said, "You'll know when I tell you who I am," and she called her name. "We were members of your church in Garland, Texas. We got peeved with you and the church. We left the church. Since then you have become our favorite preacher. We live in Arkansas. We own a plane, and we fly anywhere within 250 miles of where we live to hear you preach. You are our favorite preacher. Oh, my! We wouldn't drive across town to hear you preach when we could have, and now we drive 250 miles to hear you.

How tragic it is that most of us live now in what we will wish tomorrow that we had cared for and enjoyed, but we live now in what we dreamed of yesterday!

"I cannot wait until I have a husband."
"I cannot wait until I get married."
"I cannot wait until I have children.
"I'm going to do this and this and that and that."

Most of us plan it and then lament the fact that we did not do what we planned to do.

2. What could have been done more for your daughter?

She's at the altar. How beautiful she is! You sit lovingly on the front pew in the mother's place. You see the lips that once puckered just for you. You watch her graceful walk in her wedding gown and remember the first steps she took as she stumbled toward the coffee table. You hear her vows, "I take thee to my wedded husband, to love, cherish and obey until death do us part," and you remember when that little voice could only say, "Oh, oh. I wuv 'ou." You watch as her graceful feet and legs take her to the top of the stairs where she is going to walk as a bride, and you remember those little feet when you played with her toes and said, "This little piggy went to market and this little piggy stayed home. This little piggy had roast beef and this little piggy had none. This little piggy cried, 'Wee, wee, wee,' all the way home." If you were a little more literate and scholarly it was, "This little piggy said, 'I want some corn.' This little piggy said, 'Where you goin' to get it?' This little piggy said, 'Out of mas'er's barn.' This little piggy said, 'I'm goin' to tell,' and this little piggy said, 'Wee, wee, wee, wee, wee!" You remember as you watch her walk the stairs. You look at those lovely eyes and remember Christmas morning when before daybreak they saw the Christmas tree and all the presents underneath.

The bride smiles at the groom and you see a tooth in a place where there had been not tooth. You remember how you tied one end of the string to that tooth and the other end to the doorknob. You closed your eyes and shut the door quickly, and the tooth came out! You recall how that tooth was placed under the pillow. The next morning she turned over the pillow and there was a nickel or dime or quarter (depending on the generosity of the "tooth fairy" that lived at your house).

As you see the bride's lovely form, you remember the baths that you gave her every morning. Then you see her run to school and you see her with a skinned knee. You hear her first piano recital that made Bach turn over in his grave. You remember the first date, the first high heels, the first driver's license, the ice cream man, the car seat, the bassinet, and the room that looked like the Korean War had been fought in it during the night.

Suddenly the newlyweds are leaving. The reception is over. There is rice and a car and a "Good-bye." Then after it's all over, you go home. Her room is a holy of holies and every toy becomes a shrine. You pick up her favorite doll and it seems to speak to you. Then you ask the question, "What could have been done more?"

It's too late then to sit down and teach her about life. It's too late then to pull her to your breast and say, "I love you." It's too late to be close. It's too late to pray with her. It's too late to be her best friend. It's too late! All you can do is remember and sometimes lament and sometimes rejoice and ask the question, "What could have been done more?"

On June 1, 1979, Cindy (our youngest daughter) took the man of her life to be her husband. (Our brides walk across the balcony aisle, down the open staircase, and down the center aisle. Outside the balcony door and down a few stairs is the bridal room. The father meets the bride outside the bridal room.) When it came my time once again to stand there, Cindy and I stood outside the balcony door and she said, "Daddy, I want to tell you something. I have a wedding present to give you."
I said, "What is it, Puddin'?"

She said, "I'll be kissing Jack, my groom, in a few minutes, and I want you to know before I do, that that will be my first kiss. I wanted to give it to you for a wedding present."

We walked out the balcony door and down the aisle. I stood on the platform and read this poem that I had written that afternoon.

Behold, this dreamer cometh,
His newborn child to view.
You cuddled in my bosom,
And made a dream come true.

I dreamed you would be loving,
To warm your Daddy's heart.
My cup soon overfloweth
My dream was only part ...

Of all the love you've given
And thoughtfulness you've shown;
We've had a close communion
That few girls and dads have known.

I dreamed you would be lovely
Of face and spirit too;
No father could be prouder!
You've made my dream come true.

I dreamed you would be clean and pure
To stand before your guy
To offer him your greatest gift
One money cannot buy.

Ah, there you stand before me
With virtue ever new.
Oh, thank you, dear unsoiled one;
You've made my dream come true.

I dreamed you'd be devoted
To Christ and to His plan;
I dreamed you'd have a healthy soul
To offer to your man.

I've seen you kneel beside your bed
Beneath the night lights dim;
I've tiptoed to your bedroom door
And heard you talk to Him!

I've watched you frolic through the Book,
The One that's always new;
I've viewed your moistened eyes and said,
"My dream is coming true."

I dreamed that God would save you
A man that was His best
To prove that He rewardeth those
Who wait and stand the test.

Now by your side, sweet lovely bride,
He stands, made just for you.
So thank you, my beloved son,
You've made my dream come true.

Behold, this dreamer cometh
Another dream to view;
'Tis up to you, my children,
To make this dream come true.

My dream for you, dear daughter,
Is that you'll use your life
To make our new son-in-law
A loyal, loving wife.

And, son, the dreamer lingereth
To dream a dream for you:
Be good to her and love her
And make my dreams come true.

Behold, this dreamer cometh
Another dream is near:
I see a lonely couple
In Hawaii, filled with fear.

The dream is clearer.
Say, I know what we'll do!
We'll go along beside you
And share your trip with you!

Oh, think, beloved children,
Of all that we can do
To rescue you from boredom
And make your dream come true!

3. What could have been done more for your husband?

Lady, you have a new title--the title you knew you would have, for almost all ladies get it. It's one that all bear sooner or later. The title is "widow." You get out the insurance policy and look at it. You pack his clothes and try to find somebody that is his size who could use them. You go to the funeral home and see the hands stilled now that once provided for you, and shoulders that carried the burdens of providing for a family through the years. You choose a suit, you go to the cemetery, you go to the Social Security office, you dust off the black dress and sit at the funeral chapel as people come by to tell you they are sorry. Again you go through his clothes and then you ask the question, "What could have been done more?"

It's too late now to sit close to him in the car. It's too late to greet him at the door with a hug and a kiss and ask him how the day has been. It's too late to make love to him. It's too late now to make him feel like he is a conquering hero coming home from the steel mill or the carpenter shop. It's too late to encourage him. It's too late to be kind.

4. What could have been done more for your son?

You sit in an auditorium. A processional has been played and there sits the class in caps and gowns. "Could he be graduating? Is he old enough? I don't remember the years between the ages of four and eighteen. What happened? Have I been a Rip Van Winkle for these years? Look at his shoulders--so broad and so straight. Isn't he clean-cut? I'm so proud!" His name is called. He walks toward the platform and you remember when he toddled. Then all of a sudden memories come--the doctor's office, the baby shower, the maternity clothes, the pickles, the peanut butter between two slices of watermelon at midnight, the morning sickness when often you vomited. There were prayers and the preparation of the room. It was two o'clock in the morning when the pains began. Then you remember the frantic trip to the hospital when the policeman stopped you and asked you where you were going, and your husband said he was taking his "hospital to the baby to have a wife!" As you see your son reach out for his degree or diploma, you remember the pain, the labor, a little ether, a cry and you heard the nurse say, "It's a boy." You remember the pabulum, the diapers, the nursing, the blue jeans, the electric train, the basketball goal, the first date, the paper route, and the hub cap on the wall. You rush home after commencement because you've got to help him pack, for off to college he goes. There's a "goodbye." You clean his room and store things--the baseball glove, the baseball cards, the .22 rifle, the 16 pictures of steady girlfriends--and then to bed, for tomorrow is housecleaning day. The alarm seems to go off in the middle of the night--the clock says six o'clock, but you know it's not that late. Up you get, you rush to his room. You've got to clean it! That's what you've always done. But it's clean! The bed has not been used! No pants are on the chair! No shirt is on the floor! Then you say, as I said:

At last his room is neat and clean.
No clothes are on the floor.
The hub cap is gone from off the wall.
No marks are on the door.

The messy bed is finally made.
The carpet is clean now too.
For once the closet door is closed,
And no underwear is in view.

Bath water now is seldom cold;
I never have to wait.
No dirty rings around the tub,
The towels are clean and straight.

I'm never wakened by the sounds
Of bouncing basketballs;
They never fray my lonesome nerves
By hitting on the walls.

No fevered brow now mars my rest,
Or midnight sickly groan;
No fighting for the one sports page,
No, "Dad, I need a loan."

No baseball shatters windowpanes,
No basepaths mar the grass,
The car top never gets a dent
>From a wayward forward pass.

No heel prints run along the wall,
No, "Dad, I need the car."
No more, "'Cause he's not in yet,"
Do I leave the door ajar.

The water pitcher's always full,
The bathroom floor's not wet;
And when I want a piece of bread
The heel's not all I get.

Me thinks the floor is lonesome, though--
It never has been bare;
The chairs are homesick now it seems
For dirty underwear.

The towels aren't happy straight
And the bathtub wants some rings;
The floor is sorely saddened
By the silence cleanness brings.

The bed is lonesome for the guy
Who kept it such a mess,
'Cause when it's smooth and all dressed up,
It cannot seem to rest.

I'm gettin' mighty nervous too
Just waitin' for the noise
Of basketballs thrown 'gainst the house
By him and all the boys.

How about his preacher dad,
The guy he used to fleece?
I've learned a truth I'd never known:
The heel's my favorite piece!

You look at his picture and ask the question, "What could have been done more?"

V. What could have been done more? She has done what she could.

The years pass and you sit in a chair in an apartment. Your son and daughter sit with you. It's a Friday afternoon late, the shadows are coming and the sun is disappearing. Your daughter is getting prepared to go to a Ladies Spectacular they are having at the church. She's going to receive a doctor's degree. Your son is the busy pastor of this sponsoring church. You're too sick to get up and say, "Good-bye," and you're too blind to read. You're almost 92 and you know the end can't be far away. It's been a hard life. You've buried two children, a husband, two brothers, a sister and most of your friends. You hurt. You're lonely and you're a little bit afraid. You know you are going to Heaven, but you've never taken the journey before and the trip between here and there is a rather dark one, you think, and you dread the trip. You pray, "Even so come, Lord Jesus," more feverishly than you did when you were young. You look back over your life. Your son is too busy to stay there long and your daughter has to go get a degree. There you sit. You're took sick to go to the Spectacular, and if you did go, you are too blind to see. Suddenly you look back over your life and the apartment becomes a palace and the chair becomes a throne. Your daughter becomes a princess and your son becomes a prince. The royal scribe unrolls a scroll on which to write the story of your life. As I open the scroll I see these words written, "She has done what she could."

What could have been done more?

My challenge to you is this: Live today like you planned yesterday to live today; live today like you'll wish tomorrow you had lived today. Then when you say, "Good-bye," to the one who brought you into the world, you can look at her face and say, "I did what I could." When you say, "Good-bye," at the altar to the one whom you cradled in your arms and nurtured and succored at your breast you can say, "I did what I could."

May I share with you for a few moments the thoughts I had when Cindy walked down the aisle as a bride. (She was the last of our four children to be married. David is a preacher. Becky, Linda and Cindy are all married to preachers.) As Cindy and Jack walked out the aisle, I chuckled at the feeble attempt they had made to kiss. You should have seen them! They had never kissed before. You know what I wanted to do? I wanted to call out the high school cheerleaders and have a cheer. We cheer at football games for a touchdown or basketball games for a field goal. I wanted to call out the high school pep squad and the cheerleaders and have a great yell, "Rah, rah, rah-rah-rah! Rah, rah, rah-rah-rah! Rah, rah, rah-rah-rah! Virgin! Virgin! Virgin!" Then as she disappeared with her captor I stood on the platform and watched them disappear, these words I said to myself: "I have no regrets!"

One day these days will be over and you will be at the altar. By the way, if your child is three now, it will happen day after tomorrow. If your child is ten now, it will be this afternoon. Then you'll either say with David, "Oh, Absalom, my son, would God I had...!" or you can say, "Thank God, I did!"

When her beautiful face wrinkled by toil is lifeless and you touch it, you'll say, "What could have been done more?" or you'll say, "I'm glad I did."

"What could have been done more?" That's the thought I leave with you. When the days of being a wife are over (and they will be); when the days of being a mother are over (and they will be); I hope you can say, "Thank God, I did!" and not, "What could have been done more?"


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