A Beautiful Life

This picture reminds me of where I was last week in Florida with the live oaks, Spanish moss and blooming azaleas. Unfortunately it was so cold and rainy I couldn’t get out and enjoy the scenery that much. The picture also reminds me of the words of the song by the above title. The fifth stanza says,

While going down life’s weary road,
I’ll try to lift some traveler’s load;
I’ll try to turn the night to day,
Make flowers bloom along the way,
The lonely way.

This inspiring song was written by William Matthew Golden (1878-1934). I could not find much information about the man who wrote the words to what has long been a favorite spiritual song. Aside from the fact that he was killed in a traffic accident, May 13, 1934, the following is all I could find in a cursory search; “Son of James and Camella Hood Golding (his surname changed later), it is said he wrote most of his songs while serving an eight-year sentence in the (Mississippi) state penitentiary. His only child reportedly died young.” Golden also wrote “To Canaan’s Land I’m on My Way” (Cyberhymnal.org). It is tragic that one who could write a song such as this could have lived and died so tragically with so little being known as to what inspired him to write as he did.

Each day I’ll do a golden deed,
By helping those who are in need,
My life on earth is but a span,
And so I’ll do the best I can,
The best I can.

This song expresses great truth, which, when we sing has us making promises that we will live a beautiful life. I wonder how seriously most of us take those promises. Do we really mean it when we sing the words? There are, indeed, many who really are doing their best to live just this kind of life. But there is such a need in the world for more people to be committed to living beautiful lives.

That life, as depicted in the song, is a life of serving and sacrifice. In the song we are encouraged to do works that express our faith in Christ and our love toward others. It matters not how much of this world’s riches we may accumulate so that we may be able to live a life of ease and luxury, if there is no concern for the needs of people around us and no effort made to alleviate the suffering of those who are deprived of even the most basic needs, or who are sick or who are victims of injustices done by an uncaring, avaricious economic or social systems, that life is a miserable, shrunken failure.

To be a child of God each day,
My light must shine along the way;
I’ll sing His praise while ages roll
And strive to help some troubled soul,
Some troubled soul.

But how do we measure a beautiful life? What standard is there by which we may determine the qualities of this kind of life? Like most subjects, there would, no doubt, be a wide difference among people as to what qualities are thought of as making up a life that would be considered appealing. We are constantly bombarded by worldly standards of money, possessions, success, fame, physical attractiveness as what constitutes or contributes to what is good or desirable or beautiful.

The only life that will endure,
Is one that’s kind and good and pure;
And so for God I’ll take my stand,
Each day I’ll lend a helping hand,
A helping hand.

God made us to live beautiful lives. He made everything around us to be beautiful to enhance and inspire us to live in and live out beauty in our lives. Obviously our problem is that sin has blinded us to what truly is beautiful.

I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man” (Ecclesiastes 3:10-12)

The things of which the writer here speaks are not so much the perfections of the original creation as the things of providence of which he has just spoken – things for which there is a time (a time to be born and a time to die … etc.) There is a balance and symmetry, “a beauty and a harmony, their own season for appearance and development, their work to do in carrying on the majestic march of Providence” (Pulpit Commentary, via eSword).

Truly we live in an amazing world in which all things are moving toward an already divinely determined end which will be realized in God’s own appointed time. It certainly is hard if not impossible for us to realize that some of the things listed (death, killing, weeping, mourning, war, etc., Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) can have any value let alone any beauty, but we are not able to look at a thing from beginning to the end as God is and decide that there is indeed something of great value can come from even these things.

I’ll help someone in time of need,
And journey on with rapid speed;
I’ll help the sick and poor and weak,
And words of kindness to them speak,
Kind words I’ll speak.

The only thing we are left to do is to live lives of beauty, contributing to the goodness and glory of the whole of creation. It is in this that we fulfill our role in this world. In order to do this, however, we cannot live apart from our Creator. It is only in living as he intended us to live that we can realize the true beauty he made us to manifest. He made us to be like him. It is only in knowing him – knowing his beauty and perfection that we can begin to live the beautiful life he intends for us to live.

The most beautiful life of all – the life that defines both the perfection of God and models the beauty of human existence as it was always intended to be is the life of Jesus. There is only one to whom we can look to see that perfectly beautiful human life; the one who came from heaven to this earth, becoming human in every sense of the word, so that he might show us how God expects us to live.

Any attempt to live a beautiful life that does not take him as the standard by which we measure our own success will only end up with some unsatisfying, disappointing substitute. But if we try our best to live up to the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” (Eph. 4:13), even though we may not reach the pinnacle of perfection that he manifests, how beautiful and satisfying the doing of those “golden deeds” that reflect the glory of his perfection! In the end, any imperfection that remains in our life God will remove through his forgiveness, making us altogether what he wants us to be.

Life’s evening sun is sinking low,
A few more days and I must go
To meet the deeds that I have done,
Where there will be no setting sun.

Somehow I’d like to think that when we meet those deeds we have done they will be arrayed like flowers in God’s perfect garden, enhancing the beauty and perfection of that new creation in which all those who have lived beautiful lives shall live forever. No, we will not be there because our good deeds having earned us a place, but the good deeds of the righteous do in some sense “follow” them after death.

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:13).

So it is not unthinkable that we might “meet the deeds we have done” and those of everyone else from all places and all ages as those deeds of kindness and love continue to glorify the one who alone is worthy of our praise and adoration!

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