When I was younger, I LOVED the Anne of Green Gables series. L.M. Montgomery wrote with such vivid detail, that I could picture the entire scene. I dreamed of having my own Green Gables someday. Of course, I was also a child of the 80’s, and the TV mini series was readily available to watch as well. I, like many others, loved Anne…with an “e”. As a child, I wasn’t so fond of Marilla, as it seemed that she was just so seemingly cold. As an adult, I can see now that Marilla was simply a hurting person, and hurt people….hurt people. She didn’t mean to be unkind, she was just rather rough around the edges. Ironically, as the story unfolds, we see that Marilla and Anne were just what the other needed.
I recently checked the audio book version out from the library. While the beginning was a little dry, the kids quickly warmed up to it and we’ve been listening to it in the car. While running errands today, I caught a couple of narratives that I don’t recall reading before. Or perhaps, they just didn’t mean anything to me when I read it as a child. The first is when Matthew and Marilla are discussing what to do with Anne, since she wasn’t the boy they were expecting to adopt from the orphanage. (If you have not read Anne of Green Gables before, I highly recommend it. Or in the very least watch the TV movie.) Matthew was of the opinion that Anne was a nice girl and he didn’t necessarily want to send her back. The dialogue between the brother and sister goes as such.
“Well now, she’s a real nice little thing, Marilla. It’s kind of a pity to send her back when she’s so set on staying here.”
“Matthew Cuthbert, you don’t mean to say you think we ought to keep her!”
Marilla’s astonishment could not have been greater if Matthew had expressed a predilection for standing on his head.
“Well, now, no, I suppose not–not exactly,” stammered Matthew, uncomfortably driven into a corner for his precise meaning. “I suppose–we could hardly be expected to keep her.”
“I should say not. What good would she be to us?”
“We might be some good to her,” said Matthew suddenly and unexpectedly.
This passage took me back a bit. How often do we set out to do something for ourselves, for our benefit, and fail to see how if we tweaked our plans just slightly – perhaps it would be for someone else’s instead. How often does God call us to look just a bit beyond ourselves and what we think we need, to what someone else needs. How often are we placed in situations that aren’t necessarily our ideal, but we are being called to “be as good and kind as we can” because that person needs a lot of love? This novel, written well over a hundred years ago, has truths that we conveniently overlook in today’s culture. One could also write at length about the aspects of orphan care, adoption, etc as presented in this book.
The other passage that screamed absolute truth to me is found in chapter 7. It is the evening of Anne’s second night at Green Gables, and while Matthew and Marilla have decided to keep Anne, she doesn’t yet know it. Marilla has begun to teach and invest in Anne’s life, starting with keeping her bedroom tidy and saying her bedtime prayers.
Anne knelt at Marilla’s knee and looked up gravely. “Why must people kneel down to pray?” If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or into the deep, deep, woods, and I’d look up into the sky–up–up–up–into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer. Well, I’m ready. What am I to say?”
Marilla felt more embarrassed than ever. She had intended to teach Anne the childish classic, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” But she had, as I have told you, the glimmerings of a sense of humor–which is simply another name for a sense of fitness of things; and it suddenly occurred to her that that simple little prayer, sacred to white-robed childhood lisping at motherly knees, was entirely unsuited to this freckled witch of a girl who knew and cared nothing bout God’s love, since she had never had it translated to her through the medium of human love.
The very first truth that must be seen here is that Marilla has a legalistic view of prayer, and feels that it has to be done a certain way. Anne, as a child with no such parameters put on prayer, tells us just how she would like to talk to God. I personally rather like it. The creator that made all things, including us, certainly ‘hears’ the prayers we ‘feel’. The glaring truth in this passage though, is found at the end. Anne knew and cared nothing about God’s love, because she’d never felt it from her fellow human beings. This struck me to my very core. I think for those of us who have grown up being loved, and taught about God’s love, we don’t even think about how hard that concept is for someone who hasn’t had the same experiences.
In the interest of brevity, let me just leave you with these thoughts. If you stop thinking about yourself, and what you have to gain, who might you (as Matthew says) be “some good” to? Also, who has God placed in your life that may not have experienced love in a tangible way that allows them to understand or feel the Father’s love? If you’re not sure, ask Him. But be ready for Him to answer, and be ready to act. It is after all, what we as believers are called to do. Much love.