A Talk about Jarring Notes
George Everard, 1878
Family life is one of the great proofs of our Heavenly Father's love. He declares that it is not good that man should be alone. So "He sets the solitary in families." He links together husband and wife, and wills that none shall separate them whom He has joined. He gives little children to increase the comfort and joy of our homes. So that perhaps we might have imagined family life would have been chiefly a scene of pure and holy pleasures. We might have thought that it would be like a well-tuned harp, every touch bringing forth some melodious note.
What united songs of praise and happiness,
what happy union in prayer,
what rejoicing together in the promises of the Word of Life,
what kindly interchange of mutual affection —
might we not have looked for!
But who knows not what a very rare picture this is of actual life, even where there is something of the fear and love of God? Who knows not how the slime of the old serpent is seen on the family hearth, how sin has crept in and brought trouble and discomfort into the home as everywhere else? Alas! alas! the harp is very often out of tune; the strings are loose or broken; the sweet notes of joyful harmony are few and far between. As to constant happy, loving fellowship — it seems in some cases well near impossible.
Let us not be surprised at this. It is not as our Father purposed it. He "saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good." But the fall of man is still bearing its bitter fruit. Everything is out of order, everywhere sin is a disturbing element: "The whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now." Not until sin has been cast out, not until the day when good shall finally triumph over evil — shall we see the curse removed and perfect peace and harmony restored.
But what shall be done meanwhile? Because our home life is not all that it ought to be — shall we think it in vain to look for a remedy? Shall we cast the blame one on the other, and thus make matters worse? Not so. Let us quietly look and see what evils are destroying our home comfort, and endeavor to bring in some guiding light from the Word of God. Let us remember the mighty power of God's grace. Let us take such a precept as that given in the twelfth of Romans: "Do not be overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good," and we shall soon find matters not quite so bad as they were; and with a little patience and a bright hope of good things to come, we shall be able to see much for which to thank God, though we may still be sometimes sorely harassed and tried. We shall find some of these jarring notes regaining their harmony, and giving forth their notes of sweet music instead of the former discord.
Let us look more particularly at a few of these jarring notes, and consider how best to deal with them.
And perhaps one of these, that brings as much evil as any, is a lack of thorough trust and confidence between the different members of a family.
Some people are naturally somewhat of a jealous, distrustful spirit. They have a painful way of looking at things from a wrong light. If a picture is ever so perfect, if you look at it from a wrong stand-point, it may probably look like a mere daub.
So it often is in a family. A walk with a friend, a few words of conversation with another person, a letter you have written, some simple remark you have made, something you have done without the least intention of evil, something that has been forgotten — through lack of confidence, these and similar things give rise to misunderstandings, to painful surmisings, because taken in a wrong way. Then the evil grows. A sense of injustice repels the suspicion, hasty words are spoken and returned, the breach is widened, and then comes passion and anger, or perhaps what is worse, a high barrier of ice, a frigid civility; brothers and sisters, or even husband and wife, are cold and distant; the morning or the evening greeting is almost dispensed with; and a sad separation arises in the household.
What is to be done with reference to an evil of this kind? It seems to me that the only remedy is for all the members of a household very determinately to be on their guard lest they mistake one another; and where lack of confidence has been unjustly shown, to take it as a cross and wait until all is smooth again. Be very open, frank, and honest with those about you. As long as you possibly can, draw forth the confidence of others by putting trust in them. Let parents take their children into their confidence, and entrust to them the knowledge of family affairs. Let husband and wife, brother and sister, be unreserved with each other; and, if any difference should occur, in a kindly way endeavor to explain the matter, instead of harboring a sense of wrong. If there were more of this considerate care and thoughtfulness, it would tend greatly to knit families together in mutual love and sympathy.
Another of these jarring notes in home life is a difference of religious opinion.
It is a very sorrowful thing that this should be the case, but there are few things that are making a wider breach in many homes than this. I imagine that during the last few years it has been felt more than ever before. Perhaps one goes to one church — and one to another. Perhaps one holds very strong Protestant views — and another has turned aside to embrace tenets of a very extreme character in the opposite direction. Perhaps one values the church of his fathers and will not forsake her, in spite of the faults which nevertheless he sees — while another has left the old paths and is trying with a few brethren to find a perfect Church. Perhaps a child has left home and joined a sisterhood, or has imagined she could find rest for a weary spirit in the Church of Rome. Who can tell the intense sorrow, the lifelong bitterness, caused in thousands of homes by separations of this kind! It is not easy to know what to do in such cases. But in some respects our duty is plain.
Parents ought to be honored and respected. Let their wish have very great weight. It is true. that where an earthly parent wishes a child to disobey in any way some plain precept of Holy Scripture, it becomes the duty of the child to obey the Great Father in Heaven first; but I am sure in numbers of doubtful matters, filial obedience ought to decide. Self-will, paying no regard to the opinion or wish of a kind father or mother, is not the way to secure the favor and blessing of a Father in Heaven.
Then let those who would avoid strife and contention beware of spiritual pride. Many young converts to a new opinion are so puffed up with an idea of their own superior wisdom that they quietly assume that they must necessarily be right, though all the world is wrong. "If you are really a child of God, you will be taught this or that," is heard from the lips of many who have need to unlearn a good deal which they profess to know. A few more grains of humility, and the consciousness of imperfect knowledge, would often do much to restore peace and harmony in the home.
And then let people remember that the less of religious disputation in the home, the better it will be. It usually does harm to all who take part in it. Now and then a quiet, solemn talk with one in presumed error may do much good, but let it be in love, and with the evident desire not to win a victory in argument, but to help one whom you believe to be a loser by that which he holds. In minor matters agree to differ. Try to get nearer to the center of unity. Try to get nearer to Christ, and the bond which His love supplies. Strive to provoke one another to love and good works; and never forget that wherever sin is hated, Christ trusted, God loved, and the world's allurement overcome — there is spiritual life. Whatever mistakes and errors there may be, there is salvation.
Then Christian brother or sister, you must live the life of Christ. Manifest His love and tender pitiful sympathy towards all, however much they may differ from you. If the barrier is high, do not make it higher by your suspicion, or by failing to realize the good there may be in those who are widely separated from you in many things. Remember that true religion is comprised mainly in the two great commandments: "That we should believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment."
Among other jarring notes, the most common are those which arise from the various unruly tempers and dispositions which are found everywhere.
Sometimes we find fiery passions breaking out in the home, bursting forth like the volcano, beyond all control — and the burning lava of angry, wrathful words spreading misery and evil in every direction.
Sometimes it is fretfulness and irritation. These arise, it may be, from a multitude of daily worries burdening the heart, or from ill health, or from an occasional headache, or the like. When there is not great watchfulness and care, these things have a marvelous tendency to disturb the spirit, and then people look at everything in an unhappy way.
Sometimes we meet with a readiness to take offence about the smallest matter. You scarcely can make out what it is all about, but some offence has been given, and it is hard to get people to believe that there is no just cause for it.
Then we find sometimes a silent spirit. There is no response to any inquiry, however kindly put. All conversation flags and comes to an end; and the one who at times can be all warmth and kindness, is changed for awhile into something very like a stone pillar.
Or, again, we find not rarely the love of contradiction. It is a intricate twist of the mind, but we often come across those who always appear desirous of asserting their own superior wisdom and knowledge in respect to all events whatever. Something in our poor human nature seems ever to be coming to the surface, and saying, "I must be right — and you must be wrong." It is often about the smallest possible trifles. It may be whether such an event happened on Tuesday or Wednesday, or at ten o'clock or eleven o'clock, or whether the wind is north or south, or something else just as trivial. But the sheer love of contradiction seems to make people stand out and stick to their own opinion, and perhaps risk a quarrel in doing so.
Closely allied to this is self-will. One in a family is determined always to have his own way, and to act as he thinks fit, without regard to the will of the others. Nothing more surely breeds strife than this; for there are many separate wills in a house, and if there is no yielding one to another, there cannot but be confusion, and bitterness, and ill-feeling.
Ah! this strange inner self, with all its mingling of motive and feeling, varying so widely in each individual, and yet in every case having so many disturbing elements — what cause is there here for continual watchfulness and prayer!
It is only by these, that the evil can be remedied. We must remember that our life on earth is to be one of conflict with sin — and not of rest. Girt with the sword of the Spirit, and the weapon of all-prayer, we must strive first of all to see our own faults and to overcome them. And we must ever let Christ Himself reign on the throne of the heart. It is only Christ in us, that can conquer the sin which is in us. We must receive Him, and walk in Him as our all-sufficient source of grace and help. We must realize that He is pledged to overcome all our infirmities and to renew us in His own likeness. For this we must pray and trust.
"Less of the flesh each day,
Less of the world and sin;
More of Your grace, I pray,
More of Yourself within."
We must moreover determine to show all meekness and gentleness and forbearance and humility — even to those who most try us. We must walk in holy love, and be congenial and kindly, whatever we have to put up with. We must ever live as peacemakers. If there are any who fight against us without a cause, and vex and provoke us by unkind words and deeds — we must not return bitter for bitter; but we must endeavor to pour on their heads a constant stream of kindness; and thus at length we may hope to soften and subdue them.
But after all, this poor world is not our rest. Our Heaven is not here. On earth we shall never find everything as we wish it. There will be always something to keep us low, and make us desire a fairer home. But there will be no jarring note in our heavenly home above. If we enter that blessed kingdom through the meritorious death and obedience of Christ, every longing will be fulfilled, every string of the harp will give forth the sweetest melody. No hasty word, no angry look, no opposing will, no strife, no dispute, no envious thought — can enter there. Love will fill every bosom, and be reflected from every countenance. The God of love and peace will calm every troubled spirit, and the Prince of Peace will reign in every heart!
"There shall I bathe my weary soul
In seas of heavenly rest;
And not a wave of trouble roll
Across my peaceful breast."