I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m a fan of Anne of Green Gables. And I thought of that story when I read Saint Paul’s words in Philippians 3:1-10.
Both Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea tell the story of how a precocious orphan with red hair named Anne Shirley came to be adopted by Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, a brother and sister in their fifties who live together at Green Gables, a farm in Avonlea on Prince Edward Island in Canada. Anne is bright, quirky, and extremely imaginative. And she has a way of getting herself in trouble.
Anne of Green Gables recounts Anne’s adventures in the country school and in the local community. She excels in her studies, aspires to be a great author and English professor, and dreams of traveling the world. In the meantime, though, she maintains a fierce rivalry with Gilbert Blythe, whom she “hates” because on the first day of school, he teased her about her red hair. By the end of the first book, however, her anger subsides and the two become friends.
Anne of Avonlea is where the plot really gets good. After graduating from high school, Anne begins teaching at Avonlea school. Soon after, she attends Redmond College, where she excels in academics and is courted by the darkly handsome Roy Gardner. By this time, Gilbert Blythe has professed his love for Anne:
Anne Shirley: You just think that you love me.
Gilbert Blythe: Anne, I’ve loved you as long as I can remember. I need you.
He has always love her, but she does not recognize her closeness to Gilbert as love. She rejects him ultimately because her vision of love is rooted deeply in sentimental fantasy and feelings. And her aspirations and ambitions keep her from recognizing what she has in Gilbert.
After Gilbert falls deathly ill with typhoid fever, however, Anne finally wakes up. Thankfully, Gilbert recovers. And in a scene that causes me to pump my fists and cheer, Gilbert’s persistent love finally pays off:
Gilbert Blythe: It’ll be three years before I finish medical school. Even then there won’t be any diamond sunbursts or marble halls.
Anne Shirley: I don’t want diamond sunbursts, or marble halls. I just want you.