The converse of all that has been said concerning both repression and neglect of activity characterizes its wise direction. When the child, ignorant and unskilled, hears a voice saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it,” his willing response means activity going out in right channels or the formation of right habits. It means a dual joy for him, the joy of activity itself and also the joy from the approval and sympathy of the parent or teacher. Under encouragement he puts forth greater effort, which means constant development of greater power. Yet more than all, it means that he is learning the greatest lesson of early life, obedience.
Obedience is only activity under law. It begins with submission to the will of the parent, but when at last it is a response of the whole life to the will of God and rendered of voluntary and loving choice, it has reached its highest unfolding. This is the goal toward which all nurture of activity must be directed, else no life is safe after it goes out from the restraints of the home. In the heart of the parent who is a seer, the mere closing of the door or putting away of the toy in response to a request is not the thing most desired, for that is external and true obedience is internal. The father, possessing insight, wants the heart as well as the hand of the boy to close the door or put away the toy. Without this, no victory is gained. The act itself is the least of all. “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire. ... Then said I, Lo, I come. ... I delight to do Thy will, O my God; yea, Thy law is within my heart.” This attitude of voluntary heart acquiescence to the will of another is never the product of compelling power, else God would force His children to obey, since obedience is the thing He most desires. Force can sway the hand but not the heart. Paul, whose tireless activity spent itself out under the direction of his Master, discloses the great secret when he says, “The love of Christ constraineth us.” The eternal Father says to His child, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.”
It is by love, by words of approval, by patient encouragement and help, and also by experiencing the consequences of each act, whether joyous or painful, that the child is led to follow the one who points out the path for his activity. Soon he faces the words, “right,” and “wrong,” and though knowing only at first that “right” is the thing permitted, and “wrong,” the thing denied, he feels the difference in the results of each. Then he learns that the pathway of the thing called “right,” is not an arbitrary one laid down by mother or teacher, but the pathway traced by God Himself, wherein we all must walk, parent and child, teacher and pupil alike. When with dimmest understanding but loving heart, he first sets faltering foot in that path, because he catches glimpse of its shining light, that “shineth more and more unto the perfect day,” the one who has nurtured him will hear God’s voice speaking to his soul, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”