More than Food
J.R. Miller, published 1913
The most important thing about us, is not our condition or our circumstances — but our life itself. Experiences are only incidents; the reality in all of us is ourselves. The house is not the family. The rough weather may tear away the roof, or fire may destroy the building; but the family life is not affected by either storm or flame. The body is not the life. Sickness may waste the beauty and strength, or accident may wound and scar the flesh. But the true life is the soul within — that which thinks, feels, loves, suffers, wills, chooses, aspires, and achieves. Amid ever-changing experiences — joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, gains and losses, smiles and tears — the real life goes on. "Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the clothing?" It matters little what becomes of our money, our clothes, our house, our property — but it is a matter of infinite importance what becomes of our real life. "What shall a man be profited," asked the Master, "if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?"
The goal of living in this world, is ever to grow into more and more radiant and lovely Christ-like character, whatever our conditions or experiences may be. It is in this, that we most of all need Christ. We cannot escape temptations — but we are so to meet them and pass through them as not to be hurt by them — but to come out of them with new strength and new radiancy of soul. We cannot escape trials and difficulties — but we are to live victoriously, never defeated, always overcoming. We cannot find a path in which no sorrow shall come into our lives — but we are to live through the experience of sorrow, without being hurt by it. Many people receive harm from the fires which pass over them. Many fall in temptation and lie in dust and defeat, not rising again. Many are soured and embittered by the difficulties, the irritations, the frictions, the cares of life. But the problem of Christian living, is to keep a sweet Christ-like spirit amid all that might embitter us — to pass through the fires, and not have the flames kindle upon us.
No one but Christ can keep our lives in the midst of the countless dangers through which we must pass in this world. Danger lurks in every shadow, and hides in every patch of sunshine. There are tempters even in the circles of sweetest love. Peter, one of Christ's most loyal friends, became as Satan to his Master, tempting him to avoid his cross. Our best friends may tempt us to self-indulgence, seeking to withhold us from the self-denying service to which duty calls us. The sweetest joys, have in them possible harm for our lives. Only by committing our lives day by day into the hands of Christ, can we be kept in safety amid the perils of this world. He is able to keep us from falling, to guard us from stumbling, and to set us before his presence without blemish in exceeding joy.
In all the world, there is no other but Jesus who can do this for us. The gentlest, purest, strongest mother cannot keep her child's life in absolute safety and bring it without blemish home at last to God's presence. The truest, wisest, whitest-souled friend cannot hold your life in such holy keeping — that no blemish, no marring, no hurt, shall ever come to you.
Few thoughts are more serious, than that of the responsibility under which we come when we take another life into our hands. A baby is laid in the mother's arms. In its feebleness it says to her, with its first cry, "Into your hands I commit my spirit. Guard my life, teach me my lessons, train my powers, hide me from the world's harm. Let no evil touch me. Prepare me for life, for eternity." Yet every mother who thinks at all knows that she herself cannot keep her child's life. Her hands are not skillful enough. She is not wise enough nor strong enough.
Her part is faithfulness in all duty to the child — example, teaching, restraint, training, the making of a home-atmosphere, like the climate of Heaven, about the child.
Blessed is the mother who truly manifests Jesus in her own life, and in her teaching and training of her child. Then Christ will do the rest.
The same is true in a measure of any friendship. Have you ever thought seriously of the responsibility of being a friend? It is a sacred moment when God sends to you one to whom you are to be guide and guardian, one who trusts you and comes under your influence. We are responsible for everything we do which may color, impress, or sway our new friend's life. If our influence is tainted, if we fail to be absolutely true in our words or acts, if our dispositions and tempers are not Christlike — very sad will our accounting be when we stand before God.
So it is also when we commit our lives to the love, the guardian care, the influence of another. Pure, wise, good and rich human friendship — is wondrously helpful. But no human friend is perfect. None is wise enough to always choose the best things for us. None is strong enough to help us always in the truest and best ways. Then, the sweetest and best human friends, can stay with us but a little while. But the hands of God are safe hands for present and eternal keeping. We may commit our lives to him with perfect confidence, knowing that no harm can come to us while he watches over us. We shall be kept, guarded, sheltered, under wings of love, unto the end — preserved and brought blameless and spotless home at last.