Life's Open Doors
J. R. Miller
Life is full of doors. A door is a very simple thing. It may be only a plain, unadorned piece of board. It's significance is not in the material of which it is made, or in its costliness or its artistic beauty—but in the fact that it is a door which opens to something. One door may open to a noble gallery of pictures; enter, and you stand amid the finest works of art. Another door opens into a great library; enter, and you find about you—the words of the wise men of the ages. Another door opens to a school, a great university; enter, and you are listening to distinguished teachers whose learned teachings will enrich your mind. It is not the door itself that matters—but that to which the door is the entrance!
Life's doors are not shut and locked. They may not be gilded, and they may not invite to ease and pleasure—but they open to the truest and best things, to the finest possibilities of character and attainment, and to the noblest ultimate achievements.
There are doors that open to good. They may not invite us to easy things. The best things do not offer themselves to us as self-indulgences.
The doors may not be attractive that we ought to enter—but they open to the truest and best life, to the finest possibilities of character and attainment, and to the noblest ultimate achievement.
There is the door of education. All of life is a school. Young people graduate by and by, from the college and university—but their education is not finished. This should go on in the occupations and struggles that follow. It is there, that we learn the real lessons of life.
There is the door of hardship and pain. One of the papers pays tribute to one unnamed man who died recently after years of intense suffering. He never asked pity or any concessions because of his suffering—but grew more and more devoted to his work.
There are many people who permit their pain and misfortune to make constant appeal to human sympathy, instead of bearing these burdens quietly and heroically, as a soldier wears the marks of his profession. Suffering properly endured, develops strength, and adds to usefulness. The school of hardship and pain is where we learn many of the finest things.
The man who wins its real successes, is not he who has the most perfect health—but he who bears disease and misfortune with silent courage and gains from them a more daring spirit; who meets failure as if it were veiled victory; who challenges death by ignoring its fearful aspect, tearing off its mask, and meeting it with a smile.
Another of the doors which opens to us in life is the door to kindness. Many people think of kindness as only a kindergarten lesson—but one who accepts the task—finds it very long. Kindness begins in unselfishness, the crucifying of SELF. It is sacrificial in its every feeling and act. Wherever SELF stays in the heart—there will be unkindness in the life, in some form. To be kind—is to be gentle. Kindness will not break a bruised reed nor quench the smoking wick. Kindness is thoughtful, so sensitive in the consciousness of others' condition, that it refrains from every act, word, or look—which would give pain. Kindness is sympathetic, touched with the suffering of others—and quick to give comfort. It is a great door—which opens into the school of kindness.
Another of life's doors opens into the school of helpfulness. When we begin to be like God—we begin to be helpful. We think we love each other—but the love is only a mere sentiment—until it has been wrought into sacrificial act, into service which costs. Personal helpfulness is the test, as well as the measure of the quality—of the mind of Christ that is in us. Evermore people need to be helped. This does not mean that we are to carry their burdens, pay their debts, do their work, fight their battles. Such helpfulness does harm, rather than good. We help others truly when we make them strong and brave—that they may carry their own burdens and meet their own struggles. Helpfulness should cheer, encourage, inspire, impart larger visions and greater hope and confidence.
There are men everywhere who are pressed, beleaguered, ready to sink down and perish—whom strong brotherly sympathy would save. They are in sorrow, disappointment has staggered them, or they have been defeated in their purposes. To be able to help these—is the highest service we can render to the world.
"To be a strong hand in the dark to another in the time of need," says Hugh Black, "to be a cup of strength to a human soul in a crisis of weakness—is to know the glory of life." There would seem to be no limit to the possibilities of this higher helpfulness. The true Christian life is reached—by the emptying of self and the filling of the emptiness with Christ. When Christ is in us, we are able to help others with His strength.
It is a wonderful door which opens into a noble Christian living. Men are trying to make us believe that there is nothing in Christianity, that taking Christ into one's life does nothing for one. But what has Christ done for the lives of His friends along the centuries? What did He do for John and Peter? What did He do for Paul? What is He doing continually for those who follow Him in faith and consecration?
Robertson Nicoll, in a recent address, referred to John Paton's work in the New Hebrides. His wife died when he and she were laboring in a savage island, and had made practically no converts. The missionary had to dig her grave himself, and lay there in the dark, with hostile faces all around him. "If it had not been for Jesus," he says, "and the His presence with me there, I would have gone mad and died beside that lonely grave!" If it had not been for Jesus—the world would never have seen the glorious ministry of John Paton.
Nor is that splendid life singular in its story. Say what we may about the failures of Christians, which so sadly mar the beauty of the Christian life, we know that thousands of believers have realized wonderful things and accomplished marvelous results, which if it had not been for Jesus—they never could have done.
By and by, in even the best life, we come to a door which opens into old age. Many are disposed to feel that this door can lead to nothing beautiful. We cannot go on with our former tireless energy of our crowded days, or our great achievements. But there is altogether too much letting go, too much dropping of tasks, too much falling out of the pilgrim march—when old age comes on. We may not be able to run as swiftly as before. We tire more easily. We forget some things. But old age may be made very beautiful and full of fruit. This door opens into a period of great possibilities of usefulness, a true crowning of the life. Old age is not a blot—if it is what it should be. It is not a withering of the life—but a ripening. It is not something to dread—but is the completion of God's plan.
Last of all we come to the door of death. Into what does this door lead? Is there anything beyond—anything beautiful, anything glorious? Our Christian faith tells us that death is not a wall—but a door. We do not in dying—come to the end of anything beautiful and good—but only pass through, into blessedness and glory. We are immortal and shall never die. All the lessons we have been learning in earth's schools—we shall go on practicing forever. We shall enter into the joy of Christ—when we pass through this last door of earth!