The Privilege of Living

Psalm 145:16.---' Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.'

The author of the One Hundred and Forty-fifth Psalm was sure that he had found great secrets of gladness. He felt, indeed, that all life was full of the will to sing. And he felt that every deep and real desire that God had put into human life was the promise of its own satisfaction. So he released the music of his own gladness in a happy song. He brought new spirit to every task because he was filled with gratitude that God allowed him to be a part of Creation in such a glorious world. The privilege of living was a rapture in his soul.

Let us analyze some of the aspects of this appreciation of the privilege of living when it has really come to its own in a human life.

In the first place, there is THE PRIVILEGE OF FELLOWSHIP WITH THE NATURAL WORLD. However we appraise it, the world in which we live is a most astonishing place. Such endless energies move through it. Such exhaustless potentialities lie folded in its heart. It is a fairyland of color. It is a storehouse of power. It is an arsenal of weapons---but just there we stop. That is just the difficulty, we say. It is our foe. It strikes us remorselessly, breaks down our strength, wears out our vitality. It brings us all to defeat at last. How can we sing in a world which is against us? How can we lift a psalm over the privilege of living in a world which lies in wait to strike us down?

The truth is that this vast order, which seems so impersonal and so careless of our individual needs, is the only basis upon which a good life for the race could be built. Only a world whose order can be depended upon can be the secure home for stable living. When we violate the standards of this great order we must suffer; when we conform to its structural demands it becomes our servant. The world is our foe only if we refuse to learn its secret. It is the only sort of world which could be the friend of all men. Its very uniformities make that possible. And the very victory it wins over the body at last is only the supreme opportunity for man's spirit to reveal its quality. It is to disown the very nature of this dauntless spirit to think of it as bent to the fate which meets the body. When the spirit has used the implements of this world, it leaves the school whose task it has completed. Death is not extinction. It is graduation. And the important thing about this view of the deathlessness of man's spirit is just that it is the natural, the instinctive, the childlike view. And the moment we accept this view---that the spirit has its own high destiny---we have a new sense of the meaning of this natural world in which we go to school. We will not always be in its quaint little rooms, nor play its curious and pleasant games. We will not always meet its bruises and pains. But we will always remember our schooldays with delight. The old school will be a happy memory in many an hour when we have passed beyond its disciplines and when its joys seem like those of childhood.

It is a good school. It develops us as we need to be developed. Its disciplines us as we need to be disciplined. And it offers us, after all, a friendly hand as we move on through the vast adventure of our deathless spirits.

In the second place, there is THE PRIVILEGE OF FELLOWSHIP WITH PEOPLE. Adventures among human spirits have an exhilaration and a delight which is all their own. There is the fresh responsiveness of youth, the strong decision of maturity, and the mellow richness of age. What quantities of kinds of people! And what varied sorts of experience we may have among them!

But here, again, the objector arises. He is not ready to sing in gladness about all the people there are in the world. For he has discovered that people do not always help. Sometimes they hurt, and hurt very badly. They get in your way. They get in your way of thinking. They get in the way of your feeling. They get in the way of your activity. They break your heart. They are the most tragic aspect in the life of the world. They leave you torn and broken and lonely at last.

We have no desire to ignore this voice, and to deny the true things which it utters. But here, again, we insist on having the whole truth. And the whole truth leaves us with all the inspiration for grateful singing still in our possession. We must remember that very often the dark face which looks at us is a reflection of our own. People are a good deal like mirrors. And if we give them a face alight with joy and good fellowship, it is astonishing how frequently just that sort of face will look back at us.

Then, again, sooner or later all of us get more than we deserve at some point in life. Somewhere we taste that vicarious love which gladly lays down before us what we had no right to hope to receive. And the very articulated evils of human existence give us some of the supreme mental and moral and social opportunities of our lives. How we come to our best in the great battles to make the world better! We live in a world of heroes because there has been a demand for heroism. All this is not an apology for evil. It is a very definite reason for saying that we can find reason for singing over the privilege of living in spite of the human evil in the world. At the best it offers a perfect wealth of human responsiveness to goodness. At its worst it offers an opportunity for resistance and victory.

The great and unselfish friendships of the world have a glorious story to tell. And the creative splendor of friendship sings through it like an anthem. Life becomes a psalm when we have given the best and received the best in human friendship.

In the third place there is THE PRIVILEGE OF FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD. We human beings want a great deal. When we have all that our fellow-men can give us we want more. We may not know how to describe it, or how to define it. But we want more. We want---startling and audacious as it may seem---we want God. And clear like a clarion from eternity comes the responsive cry: God wants us. That is the last satisfying fact about life. That is what really gives us our permanent capacity for song.

But here, again, the voice of the objector is heard, and it takes several forms. With all the contradictory religions of the world, how can we ever be sure that He cares about us? Or to put another aspect of the objection: when we hear a summons which purports to come from God, how often it seems the contradiction of our dearest desires, the death-warrant of our happy hopes. How can there be satisfaction in contact with a God whose will is the defeat of our own personal desires? Or, to put still another angle of hesitation, with all the robust and urgent demands of the body, what have we to do with an ethereal Deity whose will seems strangely divorced from all the hot and eager energies of this busy life?

The reply is wonderfully simple. We meet God, if we meet Him at all, at the summit of our nature. The lonely, lofty voice of the Father God vindicates its absoluteness because that voice alone can call forth the highest and best in ourselves. So in our own natures we can find a test. Even as the Psalmist says, God is the one who fulfils desire and not the one who quenches it, providing the desire is worthy. Indeed, we may say absolutely that in Christianity every 'no' is on the way to a greater 'yes.' And the 'no' is not the voice of an external God against our nature. It is the voice of the God who made us, confirming and supplementing the highest demand which is already written in our own lives. Then this intense life of vivid physical consciousness is itself interpreted and guided by the Master of life. He does not crush the body unless it tries to become a tyrant. Only when the steed tries to run away does the hand upon the lines become stern and hard. But the glow of physical well-being is, after all, only a landmark on the way to a more lofty and more satisfying experience. And the wise God who loves us never allows the means to be accepted finally for the end.

It is this which will keep us young, and glad. It is this which will allow us still to sing that all God's works praise Him and that He satisfies the desire of every living thing. It is the companionship of God which renews and enlarges all the fountains of life.

In spite of all the wailing voices, it is a privilege to live. With the natural world, and the world of human fellowship and the world of the Divine companionship, we too in this late day in the life of the world have a right to sing. And all this is transfigured as we see it in the light of the great life and the mighty self-giving of the One in whose face we have seen the face of God. If an old hero of the older day could sing, what transcendent melodies of gladness must we know who have seen the face of Christ! To live in the world where He lived, and died, and lived again is to have seen the very portals of the palace of reality open while welcoming hands summoned us to come within.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha