This summer we are planning a trip to Prince Edward Island. The movie, “Anne of Green Gables” and its sequels have long been a favorite in this home (well, at least among its female members). But I had never read the books. So I decided if we are going the whole way to P.E.I. I should at least read the first one. It was delightful reading, full of realistic, stirring characters and lovely descriptions of the landscape–a perfect escape for dreary winter hours. But I digress!
Last night, upon finishing the first of the series, Anne of Green Gables, I couldn’t help but think of the character of Marilla. Marilla was a spinster who, along with her brother Matthew, brought an eleven year old orphan girl into her home to raise. She had never been taught to share her feelings and found it difficult to praise Anne, even when Anne had accomplished something remarkable. Marilla, in effect, had a crust around her heart. And, yet, the author made it clear just how very much Marilla loved Anne and showed the conflict that Marilla felt within herself in those moments where something positive should have been said.
It gave me great insight into the characters we run into every day. Just a few weeks ago, I was quite pleased with something I had accomplished and someone, off-handedly, made me feel like they thought it was silly and unimportant. Marilla’s character helped me understand this in a new way.
You see, I am not sure we always say what we feel. Some of us just spout off words without thinking how they sound. And some of us, never having seen an example of giving encouragement and praise, find it extremely difficult to say nice things. Some of us, when we are overcome with emotion, say things that may even sound brusque or harsh. But we love deeply, just the same.
And I guess Marilla’s crusty exterior teaches us two things–
1) Our relationships with others must overflow with grace. We should never give up on anyone. Oftentimes, we do not know the circumstances or relationships that formed who they are today. People always do things for a reason. Life is too short to be holding grudges, anyway. Let’s strive to love others like Jesus loves them, no matter what they have said to us. Grace — what a wonderful word.
2) It makes me examine my personal use of language. Before speaking, let’s ask ourselves: Is this a necessary thing to say? Will it add or take away a block to the wall between us? Are these words going to edify this person or tear them down? (Ephesians 4:29) Scripture makes it quite clear that even when we need to confront someone about sin, it is to be done in Christian love. There is never room for harsh, unkind words. And yet some of us use them almost every day. May we strive to encourage others with our words, and, when necessary, may we wrap confrontation with loving kindness.
I am so glad I picked up Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery. It is a beautiful story full of life lessons. I highly recommend it!