In early life, the willingness to consider others before self was usually aroused through the influence of some one else; now the longing and constraint is within the individual himself. Again, in childhood, these feelings were called out only by some definite, concrete object; now they are stimulated by great ideas as well. Patriotism, humanity, suffering, duty, art and science have power to kindle flame on the altar of sacrifice. The more difficult the task suggested, the greater the power of its wooing. It is doubtful whether any Christian life ever passes through this period without considering the ministry or the mission field, or whether every life does not at some moment long to go in quest of a Holy Grail.
The issues growing out of this crisis are too momentous to leave with even the wisest human nurture. God Himself must deal with the soul face to face, and lead it to this higher love and complete surrender.
In early years He revealed Himself as Creator, Heavenly Father and Friend to the loving, trusting heart of the little child. Now the time has come to make His glory pass before the soul. The marvels of creation in Nature, in constellation and atom, the infinities of eternity and space, the mysteries of life and death, His own holiness and justice and all the attributes of His matchless character, the unspeakable love that gave a Bethlehem and a Calvary to a sin sick race are revealed in new light and meaning, and the revelation is overwhelming. Existence that had been accepted without question now becomes complex and baffling. God is no longer the gentle Lover and strong Protector of childhood days, but the great “I am,” and in the terrible crystal of His presence the soul is prostrate. With deep, added meaning the Cross stands out. Its message of salvation, not only to this soul conscious of its need, but to a sinning world, is heard anew; but with it comes the voice of the crucified and risen Lord, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”
The answer cannot be returned in emotional love. It must be the love of all the heart, soul, mind and strength, born in self surrender. If this be the soul’s response, the final triumph and glory of the life of self losing is pledged, not in the fluctuating efforts of a human will, but in the changeless strength of the Son of God.
It is not to be wondered at that when a soul is in the throes of such experiences as these, it is a time of storm and stress. Yet often the struggle is carried on alone, in silence, for life becomes secretive. The open frankness of childhood is gone, and only to one in close sympathy will thoughts and feelings which sound foundation depths be revealed. It does not at all follow that because there is a physical tie between two lives, that there will be union of spirit in this time of need. The tragedy of so many homes is disclosed in the distance between father and son, and mother and daughter, that has widened almost imperceptibly through the years from lack of sympathy and confidence.