On my banner is a picture of the great home of William Wordsworth, who was a favorite poet, and Joel had taken this picture when he and Sarah were working at Cambridge in England a couple of summers ago. A friend said, “Since you use it on your blog, you should take a picture of you in front of it while you are on your trip to England. So this is me, with my Itakejoy stance–the choice I want to make every day of the rest of my life.Several people thought it was my house–no but maybe in another life!”
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful, yet , to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Hebrews 12:11
Yesterday morning found Joy and me cuddled up in our jammies sipping tea on our living room couches and crying together as we read a very touching chapter in our book “Rilla of Ingleside” by Lucy Maude Montgomery.
Now neither of us cries very easily, but sometimes when you sink your heart into a book and you feel like the characters in the story are your personal friends, then when life leads them into grief, you are right there with them. I had already read this to my older kids when they were studying World History, but it had been long enough that I enjoyed the story all over again and remembered as we were in the throes of the last third of the book why I liked it before. It is just one of several we are reading right now, but the most fun fiction of our books. Perhaps it is also relevant because Joy, at 13 is so much like the heroine who starts out the book at 15, so there are a lot of parallels.
(I think I have mentioned before that I have a history group that meets every couple of weeks and that we are doing history from 1900 through World War II this year. Every time I read a new book and have the kids do reports, I remember all over again why I so love the literature-discipleship based approach to education. I fairly see the brains of the kids growing. I see understanding of ideas, philosophy, world view, life choices, choices always having consequences, the importance of integrity, the meaning of relationships in every aspect of work and life; the love of God determining the foundations of a person’s overall life–and so much more.)
But I just had to share a paragraph with you from the book because the author, one of my favorite, Lucy Maude Montgomery, put her finger on my very feelings about hardship. Just to give you background to this paragraph, I will give you enough details to understand this paragraph without giving away the book.
Rilla was the youngest child of the famed Anne of Green Gables. She was fifteen when the book began and had a carefree, fun, dreamy, romantic life. The book starts out with her first dance she attended with her brothers and sisters. The very night of the dance, the beginning of what grows into World War I was announced at the dance by someone who heard that war had erupted in Europe.
Over the next two years, Rilla’s whole life must change. She has to take in an abandoned war baby and raise it as her own, her brothers and most of her childhood friends enlist in the army and go off to fight in France and Italy, and she is confronted with life and worry and joys and the waiting that always accompanies families who have loved ones engaged in war. The story shows the progress of a young, inexperienced girl growing into a lovely, strong, dependable, deep and patient young woman.
At this point of the story, she is reflecting that it was just two years ago that she attended the dance and what hard years they have been. A friend then engages her and asks her if she would go back and change the years if she could. This is the context of this quotation.
“Two years ago this morning, I woke wondering what delightful gift the day would give me. These are the two years I thought would be filled with fun.”
“Would you exchange them-now- for two years filled with fun?” her friend asked.
“No,” Rilla said slowly, “I wouldn’t. It’s strange, isn’t it? They have been two terrible years, and yet I have a queer feeling of thankfulness for them–as if they had brought me something precious with all their pain. I wouldn’t want to go back and be the girl I was two years ago, not even if I could–but I’m not quite the selfish, frivolous little doll I was then. I suppose I had a soul then, but I didn’t know it. I know it now and that is worth a great deal–worth two years of suffering. And still, now, I find that I don’t want to suffer any more–not even for the sake of more soul growth–even though at the end of two years, I would probably look back and be thankful again for what they would have brought me, but I don’t want it now.”
“We never do want difficulty,” said her friend, “That is why we are not left to choose our own means and measure of development, I suppose. No matter how much we value the lessons we have been taught, we don’t want to go on with the bitter schooling.”
This put the finger on my heart. I feel validated when I see that others share some of the feelings of my heart as in this story. We can still be spiritual and godly even if we find in our heart a feeling of dread of having to face difficulties. We were made for rejoicing and joy. If we rightly understand that trials cause us to suffer and we find that we don’t want to suffer, we are also feeling what Jesus felt. “who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame.”
It helped me so much to realize that Jesus despised the shame, but because he knew he would redeem mankind and he would be seated with the Father, he went to the cross. Feelings are neutral–they are God given. However, what we do with our feelings will determine our obedience and faith. We can acknowledge feelings of sadness or dread or anger. But then we have to give our feelings into His hands and say, “You know what is best. I will trust you with whatever you do.”
I am so thankful for the ways our wonderful Lord has chosen to deepen my love for Him, my more eternal perspective on life, my understanding of sacrifice and being a servant leader, the rarity of integrity and righteousness in this world, but the need to pursue it with all my heart ;the loneliness that comes from holding to ideals in a compromising world, giving unconditional love to those who would not love me back, staying true when it seems prayers go unanswered, — and yet almost all these lessons came through trials. I wouldn’t exchange the years in which he gave me eternal gifts, but I don’t necessarily want to ask for more hard years. I still find my little girl heart enjoying the easier, happier times. And yet, I have learned that He is my father who is responsible for my personal development and character and heart, so I can leave the days and years ahead in His hand. Peace today!