Strong

I would be strong, for there is much to suffer

This is the third message in a series based on a poem written in 1905 as a Christmas present for the poet’s mother. The poem later became a song, a hymn in fact, which is how I found it, while perusing the pages of an old Baptist hymnal. I was not familiar with the melody and until I made use of the wonders of the internet to access an on-line performance by the late actress, Gale Storm, I had never heard it sung before.

The poem is a son’s promise to his mother to faithfully adhere to the spiritual standards she must have imparted to him during his childhood. Its construction is a series of one-line statements about character, which makes it an unusual inclusion in the type of songbook typically focused on praise and adoration of a majestic deity.

I found the poem convenient for helping me to maintain a consistent writing discipline by drafting and posting weekly messages on my website. My strategy is to simply follow the introspective path of the poem’s author, Harold Arnold Walter, using his character qualities and reason for nurturing them as the inspiration for composing my own say about these same precepts.

The quote shown above is the third line of the poem’s first stanza, pledging to be strong – which I take to mean in character more than a statement about physical strength. From what little I have learned about Walter, he was not strong physically and died at an early age from complications arising from a weak heart. Strength in his reasoning was likely moral as it follows the first two points he made of being true and pure.

With each character trait stated in his poem, Walter provides a reason for its significance to him. Here he is concerned about the need to prepare for hard times, expressed in the words there is much to suffer. We all endure difficulties. It is a given about being alive. We might agree that much of what we endure is inconvenient. But an honest assessment would cause us to admit that few of us truly suffer as we cope with many mundane aspects of our day-to-day existence.

It is possible that Walter, a theology major at Princeton, was using the word suffer in terms of its use in the King James Bible he studied, where it meant allow. In the KJV Jesus is quoted as saying, “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” He was telling his followers to allow the little ones to come near. They were not a nuisance from his perspective. Rather they were the perfect example of faith as seen in their childlike trust of someone who exhibited unconditional love and kindness.

There is much we allow by virtue of having no control over the circumstances we encounter. If so, then that quality of moral strength in our character allows us to respond to those situations in keeping with the other virtues we try to cultivate, those qualities Walter wrote about in the rest of his poem, which we will continue to follow as time permits.

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