The Shadowed Face

by Philip Bennett Power

"You must put on more shadows," said an artist to a young lady who was engaged on painting a female face. "You must put on more shadows—for she is not young."

There were many shadows on the artist's own face—those of advancing years, of thought, and labor, and the wear and tear of life; and she knew well that shadows were not merely required by the rules of the painter's art—but that they were true to life. But the thought was a sad one.

The world which we enter upon with such brightness—is soon seen to be full of shadows; and the longer we are in it, the farther we travel into them—the more deeply and thickly they gather upon us, until we go down to the grave; beyond which all shadows flee away in the land of light—OR deepen into darkness which may be felt.

It must not be supposed that because we introduce such a subject at the commencement of a year, that we are going to throw up a long shadow of gloom over its coming days. Far from it! God is a God of hope and joy; and with such a God we would have our readers enter on the coming year—but here in this world, here in our experiences, here on our very faces—there are many shadows—and we shall gain nothing by shutting our eyes, and saying there are no such things.

And it will help us at the outset to think more kindly of shadows—if we remember how heavily they lay on the face of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. "His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness!" Isaiah 52:14. The Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old—and have you seen Abraham?" He was indeed far from fifty—He was but a little above thirty—but shadows and lines were on His face; and His enemies thought more of fifty than of thirty, when they looked upon Him.

So let us not turn from shadows as a disagreeable subject, but draw from them the blessed teachings which they have for our own characters, and our own souls.

There are two kinds of shadows:

1. those which come upon us,

2. those which are made by us.

The first must come, the second need not come.

Yes! as we advance in life, we find so many things which we thought solid—to be hollow; so many things which we thought enduring—to be perishable; so many things which we thought would satisfy us—to leave us unfilled; that one disappointment after another throws its shadow, first on the heart and then on the face!

Take the fairest, youngest child—encompass him with wealth, give him health, give him all that this world can bestow; yet you cannot save him from the pencil charged with the shading color—the shadows will in due time be laid on. At first they will be mere greyish tints, they will seem perhaps to make but little change; but they will deepen, and that more and more as time goes on.

Sometimes they are laid on heavily all at once—and no matter how bright things may become in after life, there they remain; they never can be effaced.

But we must not accept this lot sulkily, and say, "If they must come, they must—but we would be glad if they never came."

Some little while ago, a woman who dealt in perfumes and powders of various kinds, advertised herself as able to make people beautiful forever; and it was no uncommon thing some time ago, for people to cover their face and necks with makeup, filling up the crevices which wrinkles had made, just as you put fresh plaster over an old wall to fill up the cracks—these people would have no wrinkles, no shadows.

Now, some of the most beautiful faces in the world are shadowed ones; and certainly some of the loveliest characters are the same. Therefore we are not so much to trouble ourselves about the shadows themselves—as about how they came, and what they mean.

Have they come in the course of God's providential dealings? Then they are from Him, and not from ourselves; and being from Him, they are able to do us good—they are meant to do so. They are able to do what all His dealings with His people can accomplish—that is fit us for Himself.

It was by the coming up of many shadows upon Him, that Jesus, thus tried in all points like ourselves, became an experienced High Priest. Feeling for our infirmities—His sorrows fitted Him to be a sympathetic friend to us in our sorrows.

And the sorrow and discipline which throw shadows are fitting us too. These are tokens of experience. They say, "A voice has spoken, telling me that this earth is not a place simply of enjoyment; that I must be preparing for an eternal world. The lightness, the garishness of our natures must be wrought upon by the great Master's hand."

So then the heavy shadows made by the furrows in the face may be looked upon with reverence, with affection, with awe—when they have been the handiwork of God.

Thus let us accept them. They are His softenings—His tonings down of the roughness and crudeness of our natures— His way of drawing character.

It is the shadows which give character to a face, and it is by shadow-casting dispensations, that God gives us character.

But let us take heed how WE ourselves make shadows for ourselves or for others. There are many such. They come up upon the faces of wives, and husbands and parents—and do not depart until the face becomes placid in death.

The unkind word—the cruel sleight—the sad short-coming, where 'love' had reason to expect so much; all these are powerful shadow-casters. They do their work in the mansion of the nobleman, and in the cottage of the poor man; for they are the same in themselves, and have to work on people who have the same affections. The shadows, which need not have come, are those which make the world as wretched and gloomy as it is!