Written by Kate
L. M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island’
“To think that this is my twentieth birthday, and that I’ve left my teens behind me forever”’
The length of years seems to wane as we grow older. On my tenth birthday, I couldn’t remember what had happened ten years before, nor could I imagine what it must be like to have lived long enough to do so. Now, I remember it like it was yesterday. As I’ve begun my early twenties, I have drawn inspiration from Anne of the Island by L. M Montgomery. You might remember Anne of Green Gables. But did you know it is part of a series? This is the third book. Canadian orphan, Anne Shirley is bright, enthusiastic and joyful; a character whose approach to life I would like to adopt in the coming decade. Despite being the fictional hero of a little-known book Anne has helped me to process this new chapter of life.
“I’m sorry, and a Little Dissatisfied as Well”
Turning twenty in the book, Anne has similar experiences to me: starting uni, being away from home, growing up. She expresses my feelings exactly during these periods of change. Moving away from home, she says:
‘I’ve longed for three years to go to Redmond- and now
I’m going- and I wish I weren’t”’.
Yet later, the longed-for homecoming is not as sweet as
‘Anne felt that life partook of the nature of an anti-climax during the first few weeks after her return […] she missed the merry comradeship […] She had dreamed some brilliant dreams during the past winter and now they lay in the dust around her.’
She also describes regret at not being the person she’d imagined herself to be as a child.
“Do Your Duty by God and Your Neighbour … and have a good time”
Nevertheless, Anne draws encouragement from her friends. I’m thankful to the friends who have buoyed me up similarly when I’ve found myself under pressure. One of the first things I noticed about being twenty was the sinking feeling of being a fully-fledged adult with adult responsibilities, when that sunny tenth birthday still seems so recent. In the days leading up to and since my birthday, I have sometimes felt my youth slipping away in drops of wasted years. I will never get the chance to do things differently. The teenage Kate is never to be seen again. Anne reflects similarly on her twentieth birthday, saying of her character:
‘ “I don’t feel that it’s what it should be. It’s full of flaws” ’.
In response to Anne’s ruefulness comes the advice of her elderly friend:
“So’s everybody’s […] Mine’s cracked in a hundred places […] Do your duty by God and your neighbour and yourself, and have a good time”’.
I wonder if this is what Solomon is getting at when he says in Ecclesiastes:
‘There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?’.Ecclesiastes 2: 24-25
It is tempting to be full of regret for things I haven’t done. But this, I have found, only feeds the discontentment that the devil is so keen for us to feel instead of rejoicing in Christ. Anne has helped me raise my eyes to my creator and be thankful for these years he has given me to enjoy learning, deepening friendships and growing closer to him. I don’t get this right, but when I fall, he
picks me up again.
“The Life of Heaven Must be Begun Here on Earth.”
Anne is ever the optimist, looking on the future with hope and championing the blessing of a sea of uncertainty that is the start of adult life. She matures throughout the novel, later summing up her time at university:
“ I really have learned to look on
each little hindrance as a jest and each great one as the foreshadowing of victory.”
It is with this determination in the face of struggle that I would like to approach my twenties. There is a deeper importance to this victory. True victory, over sin and death, has been won by Christ. We should live in light of this. Anne reflects on this after the death of a friend:
‘The little things of life, sweet and excellent in their place, must not be the things lived for; the highest must be sought and followed; the life of heaven must be begun here on earth.’
Therefore, forgetting education, career-prospects, travel experience and talents, my twenties must ultimately be about knowing Christ. I pray to the
God of my salvation to help me live for his riches, where moth and rust do not destroy, and not for the things of earth. I take huge comfort from knowing that he is sanctifying me each day, for the best is always yet to come when each day brings me nearer eternal life with him.