The Veiling of Lives
J. R. Miller, 1902
When Moses came down from the mount—his face shone with a strange brightness. So dazzling was the shining, that in order to conceal the glory, he had to put on a veil when he talked with the people.
Many people wear veils over their life. Those among whom they live—do not see them as they really are. There are some who move among men without any apparent heavenliness in their features—yet who really have a divine glow on their soul. They commune much with God—and then they come out and mingle again with us in life's common ways, walking on our streets, sitting at our tables, joining with us in work and fellowship. We see no shining on their faces. They are not greatly different in appearance from the other people we meet. At least there is not radiance, no halo of saintliness, visible.
Yet their lives are in truth transfigured. Christ lives in them, and His life shines out in their faces. But they wear a veil, which conceals the splendor from human eyes. It is no purpose of their own—to walk veiled among men. They do not try to hide the grace of God that is in them. But it is in the very nature of heavenly goodness—to veil itself. We are counseled by our Master—not to do good to be seen by men—but to give our alms secretly, only for God's eye. We are taught that we should be clothed with humility, and the garment of humility is a veil which covers and conceals the brightness of saintliness. We do not see the best of the good people about us. Many lowly, commonplace duties and services—are really veiled ministries.
This is true, ofttimes, of the loved ones in our homes, and of the friends who are most to us. We do not perceive the noble things in them while they live beside us, and serve us in so many familiar ways. Their lives appear plain and commonplace. We see no halo, no shining of angelic brightness.
One sad day they leave us—and then, when we have them no more, we realize for the first time, what angels of God they were to us! Their help had been coming to us so long and so quietly, without ostentation, without demonstration, that we did not appreciate its worth—until we missed it. Their virtues and graces of character had grown so familiar to us, wearing such common human form, so plain, so modest—that we saw not the Divine beauty in them.
LOVE walks veiled before us, so that we cannot see the shining glory of his face. Death is the rending of the veil—and then we see the splendor—as it vanishes!
In other ways, too, are our lives veiled. The body is a veil which conceals within it, all the mysteries of life. No one sees what goes on in your brain—your thoughts, your imaginations, your affections, your visions and dreams. No eye can look into your heart to note its daily history—the affections, the feelings, the desires, the motives, the joys and sorrows—of your days. Every life carries a world of mystery within it, veiled from the eye of even the closest, dearest friend!
The spirit is always hampered and limited by the flesh. The body not only veils the life which dwells within it—but also conceals much of its power and beauty. No good man ever lives out all the goodness that his heart conceives, and desires to express. No most skillful artist ever gets upon his canvas—the whole of the vision which is born in his soul.
"What hand and brain—went ever paired?
What heart alike—conceived and dared?
What act—proved all its thought had been?
What will—but felt the fleshly screen?"
Sometimes a veil is put on purpose, by design—to hide a secret evil heart. There are those who steal the garments of heaven—to serve the devil in! They wish the world to think their life fair and beautiful, and they wear a white veil. But the covering only dimly conceals the blackness and loathsomeness within. Jesus, as His eye pierced life's thin disguises—for He knew what was in men—spoke of certain men who were like white-washed sepulchers, outwardly beautiful—but inwardly full of impurity! What mockeries are any veils which earth's looms can weave, as coverings of men's sins!
There can be no really veiled sins. True, from men's eyes—they may be concealed for a time. The dishonest man may cover his embezzlements from those at the desk beside him. The faithless husband or wife may hide from the other—the immorality which so stains the sacredness of holy wedlock. But no veil hides the sin from the offender's own conscience—and none hides it from God! What miserable folly it is to live a hollow life, with only a flimsy rag covering all the sin and guilt! The only worthy life is one which is open to all the world, which has no secrets that would bring a blush to the cheek—if they were suddenly proclaimed on the housetop!
But there are other veils, which are not intended to conceal evil plots, or secret wickedness.
We imagine that we know each other, because we have lived in very close relations for a long time. We speak of knowing a man perfectly. But really we know no one perfectly. Every life is veiled from every earthly eye. The concealment may not be intentional—but from the very nature of life—it is impossible for us to know any other person in more than a general and superficial way. We cannot see the motives which are back of actions, nor the reasons for the things our closest friend does. If we judge from appearances, we shall judge ignorantly, perhaps harshly and unjustly.
There are many Divine counsels against judging others. One reason we should not do it, is that our knowledge of others lives must always be only partial at the best, and very imperfect. We see only "through a glass darkly." We see only fragments, and it never is fair to judge from fragments. We see only one side, and we condemn the act or the character, while perhaps the other side is lovely. If we saw the whole—our condemnation might change to praise.
Another reason why we should not judge others—is because nothing is as yet finished. An artist complains if you criticize his picture—before he has completed his work on it. Until that time—he keeps it veiled. God is an artist. He is working on men's lives in this world—but nothing is finished here. "It does not yet appear what we shall be." The work is still uncompleted. By and by the veil will be drawn away, and then we shall see the finished work in the lives which in their incompleteness, seem so faulty. "We know that when He shall appear—we shall be like Him." We should never judge God's unfinished work in men's lives.
This teaches us that we should be very patient with each other's life. Too often a misunderstanding arises, through only partial knowledge. We see it sometimes in families. For lack of wise, loving patience, alienations occur, and lives which ought to be one in sympathy, affection, and interest—are held apart. We have all seen such estrangements, beginning with a seeming trifle—yet becoming so complete that two lives, dwelling under the same roof touching each other continually and closely in the contacts of daily association, have grown miles and miles apart in heart, in spirit, in all that concerns real and true living!
How careful we should be in all our friendships—how thoughtful, how forbearing, how considerate, how charitable! We should not judge others; and if we are misjudged we should not complain—but wait quietly for the fuller revealing which some day will come.
We are moving toward a day—when every veil shall be taken away. The veil of flesh shall be torn away at the touch of death, and the real self shall pass out into clear vision. Then shall we know, even as also we are known. We do not see realities while in this life; death is the great revealer.
In that life of full revealing—we shall no more wear veils, hiding us from each other. There shall be no mystery there—our knowledge of each other, shall be full. There shall be no hiding of goodness or excellence, behind blemishes or faults. No one shall be misunderstood. No motives shall be misconstrued. There shall be no misjudging, no wrong interpretation of acts. There shall be no veils between friends, leading to alienation and separation. Friendships shall have nothing there to hinder their perfect fellowship. Lives kept apart here through misunderstandings or incompatibility, shall there find the best in each other, and be knit together in love.
There is one eye from which there are no veils; nothing hides any life, any nook or cranny of any life—from Christ. To Him all is as open as noon-day. He never fails to see the evil in us which may be hidden from human vision, nor the good in us which may be obscured by our faults or frailties. He never misunderstands us, never misjudges us. He loves us, too, with all our faults; for He knows what He can make even of our weakness and our failures. We can, therefore, entrust our life, as it is, with Christ, knowing that in Him—our holiest interests shall be safe.