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The Beauty of Every Day: Chapter 16 - The True Enlarging of Life

By J.R. Miller

      To the external eye, there is no great difference in men. Some are tall, some are short, some are heavy, some are light, some are slow, some are quick of movement. We soon learn that the real size of men is not measured by their height or their weight, or the alertness or slowness of their movements. A physical giant may be a dwarf in intellectual or in moral quality; and a man of very small stature may be great in the things which make real manhood.

      The actual measurement of life, is not therefore determined by the weigher's scales or by the tailor's patterns--but by qualities of mind and heart. When we are exhorted to enlarge our life, it is not meant that we shall increase our stature or add pounds to our weight--but that we shall grow in the things that make character, that give virtue, that add influence.

      There is always room for such enlarging. The possibilities are simply immeasurable. No man is ever so good--that he cannot be better. No one has ever attained so worthy a character, that he cannot be worthier. No one is ever so noble a friend, but he can become nobler.

      All life is immortal. Its reach is infinite. Yet few of us begin to make of our own personal life, what we might make of it. We do not live as we could live. We touch only the edges of possible attainment. The call of Christ to us ever is to enlarge our lives. He wants us to have not life merely--but abundant life. Yet many of us are satisfied if we have life at all, even the smallest measure of it. We live only at a "poor dying rate," as the old hymn puts it. Our spiritual 'pulse' bare beats. We are not living richly. Our cheeks are thin and sunken. We are spiritually anemic.

      Men are looking after their bodies now a good deal more than they did formerly. We are taught that we ought to live healthy, that we ought to bring our bodies up to their best. Athletics may be overdone in some of our colleges, where some young men seem to think they have no minds, no souls--but only bodies. But true education thinks of all parts of the life--body, mind, and soul--and seeks to make full-rounded men. That is what Christ means when he calls for abundant life. It means enlargement in all phases and departments of our being.

      We are not living up to our full duty--if we are not taking care of our bodies. We are always in danger of over-indulging our appetites. Plain living and high thinking belong to the true life. Men talk about the mystery of Providence when their health is poor, or when they break down early. They wonder why it is. Perhaps it would be more fair to put the responsibility on their own neglect of the laws of health.

      The heart makes the life. This is true of the physical life--its health and fullness depend on the working of the heart. It is true also of the spiritual life. "Your heart . . . shall be enlarged," is the promise to those who are called to live the life of divine grace.

      A larger heart--makes a larger man. Love is the final measure of life. There is just as much of life in a man--as there is of love, for love is the essential thing. Not to love--is not to live. Love is the perfect tense of life. Paul tells us that though we have the eloquence of angels, the gift of prophecy, and though we have all knowledge, and faith to work the most stupendous miracles, and the largest benevolence, and have even a martyr spirit--but if we have not love, we are nothing. We are empty.

      When we say that our heart is enlarged, we mean we are growing in love, becoming: more kind, more long-suffering, less envious, less irritable, seeing more of the good in others and less of things to blame and condemn, having more patience, more gentleness, more sympathy.

      We must also make sure that what seems to us to be enlargement of life--is really enlargement. "Getting is not always gaining." A man may be growing in certain ways--and yet be really dwindling. He may bulk more largely before the eyes of men, and yet in the sight of God be a smaller man.

      Writers distinguish between possessing and inheriting. In one of the Beatitudes we read, "Blessed are the meek--for they shall inherit the earth." The meek are the unresisting. They are not the strenuous among men. Ordinarily they do not grow rich. They do not add field to field. They are not generally regarded as successful. They are not shrewd, and are easily imposed upon. Ambitious and unscrupulous men often take advantage of them. They do not contend for their rights. They give to him who asks of them, and from him that takes away their goods--they do not demand them back again.

      It seems strange, therefore, to read of the meek--that they shall inherit the earth. But note the word that is used--inherit. They do not possess the earth. They do not have its millions in their own name. A writer, speaking of the Beatitudes, says: "The men who leave behind them much hoarded wealth, rarely leave anything else. The saints, the men who raise the moral stature of mankind, usually die poor." Yet the Master says of just such as these, that they shall inherit the earth. What does he mean?

      There is a world-wide difference between getting and gaining, between possessing and inheriting. A man may acquire power and may amass millions. That is, he may put his name on the millions. He may own railroads, banks, gold-mines, houses--but his vast wealth really means nothing to him. At the heart of it all, there is only a poor, miserable, dwarfed soul. Then when he dies, he is a beggar, like the rich man in our Lord's parable--owning nothing. He takes none of his money with him. He possessed millions--but he inherited nothing. He made nothing really his own. No part of his wealth was laid up in heaven. No part of it was ever wrought into his own life. No part of it was put into the lives of others.

      There is no true enlarging of the heart and life in such acquisition as this. A man may increase in money and possessions, until the boy of poverty has become a millionaire; and yet he may be no wiser, no greater in himself, no more a man, with not one more worthy quality of character. He may live in a great deal finer house, with richer furniture and rarer pictures and costlier carpets--but the man himself, in the midst of all the splendor--is no better, no greater.

      He may have a large library in the part of his house--but the books have done nothing for him, have been nothing to him; the pages are unread; he has not taken any of them into his life. He was told that a rich man ought to have a fine library and he bought one--but never read a noble book!

      He may have lovely gardens on his estate, with rare plants and flowers--but he knows nothing of any of them, and they mean nothing to him. They have put neither beauty nor fragrance into his life.

      He may have great works of art in his house, purchased for him by connoisseurs at tremendous prices--but he knows nothing of any of them. All the costly things he has gathered about him by means of his wealth, are but vain bits of display. They mean nothing to the man. They represent no taste, no culture, no vocation of his. He is no greater, no more intelligent, no more refined, because of owning them. His life is no more beautiful, no more gentle or useful, for any or all of them.

      There is no true enlarging of life in all this. Acquisition is not gain, possessing is not inheriting. The way the meek man inherits the earth--is by getting the beautiful things of the world into his life--not merely by having them added to his estate. It is not by owning mountains--but by having the mountains in his heart that a man is really enriched.

      A man who is seeking to enlarge his life, may continue poor all his years in an earthly sense--but he receives into his life, qualities of character which make him a better and greater and richer man. Paul lost all his money, all his earthly inheritance, in following Christ. But think what a glorious Christian manhood he built up meanwhile for himself! Think of the way he blessed the world by his life, by his teaching, by his splendid self-sacrifice, by his influence! Think of all he gave to the world in his words! He scattered seeds of truth, plants of beauty everywhere. Think how the world has been blessed and enriched by what he said and did. His heart was enriched, and his life grew into marvelous ardor and influence.

      Jesus said, "I tell you the truth--no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields--and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life." Whatever we part with in following Christ--we shall get back again, in our own lives, in real possession, in rich blessing.

      When we speak of the true enlarging of the life, we must think of such enlarging as this--not of a man's property--but of himself. You have grown richer, perhaps, these years; you have a great bank account, a bigger and finer house, more property, are more widely known among your fellows, occupy a more conspicuous place; but are you a larger man, are you truer, nobler, Christlier? Have you more peace in your heart? Is your heart warmer? Do you love your fellow-men any more? Are you giving out your life more unselfishly to make others better? Are you making yourself more continually a bridge that others may cross over life's chasm; a stairway on which the weak, the weary, the struggling, the lowly, may climb up to better things? The enlarging life--is one that is growing more Christlike every day, that has more of the fruits of the Spirit in it--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control.

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See Also:
   Chapter 1 - While We May
   Chapter 2 - The Glory of the Common Life
   Chapter 3 - Seeds of Light
   Chapter 4 - He Calls Us Friends
   Chapter 5 - Not Counting God
   Chapter 6 - Perfection in Loving
   Chapter 7 - Shut Your Door
   Chapter 8 - Things That Hurt Life
   Chapter 9 - Getting Away from Our Past
   Chapter 10 - Thomas' Mistake
   Chapter 11 - Friends and Friendship
   Chapter 12 - The Yoke and the School
   Chapter 13 - The Weak Brother
   Chapter 14 - The Lure of the Ministry
   Chapter 15 - Narrow Lives
   Chapter 16 - The True Enlarging of Life
   Chapter 17 - Through the Year with God
   Chapter 18 - The Remembers
   Chapter 19 - Caring for the Broken Things


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