Home means privacy. There a man may shut himself in, and shut the crowd out; and that is a great essential to the making of deep, strong life. There is a stubborn tendency in present-day life to rob us of privacy; to steal away the quiet corner where in silence one may sit and commune with his own spirit, and listen to the voice of God within his soul. There can be no strong life without privacy.
"If chosen men could never be,
In deep mid-silence open-browed to God,
No greatness ever had been dreamed or done."
Privacy is the schoolroom of character. In the crowd and street character must live, and be put to the test, and develop its strength, but the solitude of the inner chamber is where it is made, and made deep.
"The nurse of full-grown souls is solitude." The home is the nursery of character; not merely for the children, but for the mature as well.
No man can be strong, and no woman can come into her full birthright of sweet potency, without that privacy for which home stands peculiarly.
And home means rest. When one is tugging away, sore in muscle, or in brain, or maybe in heart, his thought turns unbidden to the quitting hour, and the home spot where rest may come. And resting is one of the absolute essentials of strength, and of strong character. There is a good tiredness, which brings good sleep, and which leaves in sleep. But excessive fatigue is a subtle foe, to be earnestly fought. We should fight it for character's sake. Fatigue is a terrible demoralizer. Countless temptations are yielded to because the body is all tired out. Many a sadly blighted life turned the down-corner at the point of bodily exhaustion.
We need the home for rest. And the home should be kept sacred to its mission of rest. It is not simply the rest of quitting at six in the evening, and not needing to begin again until seven or eight the next morning; but the rest of readjustment of spirit, the rest of sweet harmony.
"Rest is not quitting
The busy career;
Rest is the fitting
Of self to its sphere.
"'Tis the brook's motion,
Clear without strife,
Fleeing to ocean
After its life.
Nowhere hath knelt;
Heart never felt.
"'Tis loving and serving
The highest and best!
'Tis onward! Unswerving—
And that is true rest." (John Sullivan Dwight.)
And home means faith, sweet mutual confiding. It means a trust that never questions, even half-unconsciously in the inner secret of the heart, regarding anything. This is not leaving behind the thought of home being rest. It is simply emphasizing and intensifying it yet more. There is no rest equal to that of being with the one whom you trust absolutely, and who unquestioningly trusts you. That is the secret of real rest, and of the new inspiration that rest brings.
"In love, if love be love, if love be ours,
Faith and unfaith can ne'er be equal powers;
Unfaith in aught is want of faith in all.
"It is the rift within the lute
That, by and by, will make the music mute,
And, ever widening, slowly silence all:
"The little rift within the lover's lute,
Or little pitted speck in garnered fruit,
That, rotting inward, slowly moulders all.
"It is not worth the keeping: let it go!
But shall it? Answer, darling, answer No!
And trust me not at all, or all in all." (Tennyson.)
It is in such a home that finegrained strength grows up to the full. That word strength needs a frequent re-telling of its meaning. It means not simply power to do, though that is thought of more than anything else in speaking of strength. But there's a greater test, and a greater revealing, of strength than that. There is the greater strength that can patiently endure, and do it serenely. The strength of not-doing, and not-speaking, when that is the thing most needed, though all the tendency and temptation are to a spilling out at lip and hand, is infinitely more than the strength of action.
It takes the greatest strength to speak quietly. It takes rarely disciplined strength to bring the softest music out of organ or piano. It is quite likely that, speaking offhand, one would say that the eagle is the most powerful of all flying birds. And yet a little thought and reading bring to mind the fact that, though actually so powerful, its relative strength is really inferior to that of the humming-bird. This smallest of birds can perform a feat of strength quite impossible to the powerful eagle. It holds itself steadily poised in mid-air as it quietly sips its honey-food from the hanging flower. Its very calmness and steadiness and delicacy of action reveal the superbness of its strength.
The strength that reveals itself most in gentleness and tenderness and keenly alert patience; in subdued tone, and soft touch, and quiet step, is the real, strong strength that wins the hardest fight. It is a native product of the home. And the true home is constantly growing it, and growing it into ever new depth and fineness.