Anna's Difficulty by Unknown

Our friend Anna came home from school one day with her sunny face all in a cloud, and looking as if it might presently get a sprinkling of tears. There was one to whom she always went in trouble, besides that other One whom she tried never to forget, and she sought her best earthly friend now.

"Mother, I do think it is really mean and rude in the Wilsons that they pass me by when nearly all the class of girls are invited. I don't want to feel bad about such a thing, but I can't help it. I don't know as anybody likes to be slighted."

"Of course not, my daughter," said Mrs. Jones; "the feeling of having been rudely treated is always uncomfortable. What do you suppose is the reason you are not included in the party?"

"It is because the Wilsons feel above us, mother. The girls dress in finer clothes than I do, and have more accomplishments; and then we work for a living, and they do not. But, mother, I believe I am as intelligent and well-bred as they. I can't bear it, mother."

"It is not pleasant, to be sure, Anna; but think again, darling, before you say you can not bear it."

"Well, mother, who could? Nobody but you, who seem to have a way of getting round hard places, or walking through them."

"I have had many more years of experience in life than you. But I wish you to think now whether there is not some way for you to bear this little vexation."

"Oh, yes, mother, I know what you always say, and that, of course, is right; but I don't see how feeling and acting like a Christian takes away one's natural feeling about being slighted and ill-treated by others."

"Perhaps it does not. I sometimes think one's sensibilities are greatly intensified by leading the better life. A Christian, in trying to bring his own character up to the point of perfect love and honor, often becomes exacting of such perfection in others, and failing to find it, feels exquisite pain. Yet the pain will oftener be because God's great principles of right are violated, than that his personal feelings are hurt. Which is easier for you, child, to be wounded in personal feeling, or to see what is wrong against God?"

"I never thought exactly; it is dreadful to see the wrong, but one feels in the other a sense of shame—feels so wronged—it is quite different."

"My precious one," said Mrs. Jones, "when you have so learned the love of God as to know no difference between the interests and the honor of his law, and your own comfort and pleasure and good name, you will see more clearly how this is, and feel, it is likely, the sense of shame and wrong in a different way."

"But, mother, haven't we a right to feel hurt when we are wronged or slighted—I mean personally hurt?"

"Yes; but may be if we looked a little deeper into the principles of things, or our own principles, we should not suffer so much. What is the secret of your feeling hurt by the Wilsons? Does the slight make your real self in any respect less or worse? Does it injure you in the estimation of others?"

"Why no, mother, I suppose not; but I am as good and as much respected as they are; and I don't like to have it seem that I am beneath them because I am not so rich, and all that."

"My dear, I believe we have talked this subject over before, and long ago understood that we desire no position, no companionship which is not ours by right of moral and intellectual character.

"It is the Christian principle to live in all things for the true and the right; to be willing to take our own place in business and society, and fill it well; to think less of what others think of us than of what we in ourselves are; to appear to be only what we are, and be willing to appear thus while we are always looking up to something wiser, and lovelier, and better.

"I never could get the idea of a Christian's being above or beneath any one in the sense you mean. His associations are, or should be, such as Christ's were in His walk among men. Christ, infinitely endowed with all excellence and beauty, was also infinitely humble. He neither sought nor shunned any one for His own sake, but lived out the divine fullness of His life of suffering and love without regard to His position or popularity with men. I said He did not seek others, but I must except the beloved John, and the household at Bethany, and a few others whom He loved undoubtedly for their own sake, with a personal, human sort of attachment."

"You don't mean, mother, that we should never seek people for their own sake or our own pleasure?"

"No, surely; but those only who are congenial in principles and life. Treat others with courtesy and generosity, and after that, allow them to be as indifferent to you as you are to those whom you do not prefer. Every person has a right to select his companions, and every one should possess enough personal dignity and generosity not to be offended if he is not preferred.

"I suspect you are wrong about the Wilson's. If they do not prefer you for your own sake, they have the right not to do so, and you should accord it to them just as you take the privilege of not inviting certain others who might feel the same about you as you do toward the Wilsons. And more than this, Anna; if the Wilsons live for different principles, making friends for other reasons than you do, why, indeed, should you care for their especial regard? A friendship built upon the accidents of fortune, distinction, or show, has but a sandy foundation at best.

"There is no security of happiness in any earthly advantage. Only take care to be in yourself what in your circumstances is noble and beautiful and good, and you will find the right position without any particular seeking. The love and approval of the good and pure will come to you, and that is what you want of any friendship, and nothing more.

"Half the personal ill-feeling in the world comes of people's aspiring to what they have no fitness for; they have neither the dignity nor the humility to take the place God in His providence assigns them; and instead of reaching out of it by making themselves nobler and better, they attempt to build up by some appearance which is not more than half true.

"The real Christian will not want a name or a reputation which he does not by right of goodness or talent deserve; but by living well where he may be, he makes any duty, any position, honorable and good. He has nothing to do with the false; he can afford to seem in all things what he is, and to depend for love and favor on his consciousness of worth."

"But, mother, I never thought of depending upon anything else. The Wilsons know that I am their equal in the school room, and in all the qualities which they ought to respect."

"You remember we spoke of a right of choice on their part; and now are you, a Christian, going to be hurt because fashionable people do not court you? Can you not yet think of a way to bear the vexation? Is it, indeed, so much of a trial, as you think it all over?

"You know, little daughter, that Christians can look at these things only in the light the Christ-life sheds on their souls, on all their earthly relations, on the path that leads them up to the Source of light, truth and right. Think of it, and tell me to-morrow if you can bear to be slighted by the Wilsons."

[Illustration: <i>"Well, Anna, have you come to a conclusion?"</i>]

"Well, Anna," said Mrs. Jones the next day, "have you come to a conclusion?"

"Really, mother," said Anna, "you have a great way of taking the sting out of uncomfortable things. I wonder if I shall ever get so as not to care for my own sake."

"That will depend upon how closely you are united to God. If you live the true Christ-life, nothing of the sort will hurt you much; the consciousness of being right, the joy of His approval, will suffice you. But what about the Wilsons?"

"Why, mother, nothing about them; I don't think I shall feel bad any more. If they do not care for me, I shall not for them, only to be kind and polite; and I am sure I want no one's favor who does not love me for just what I am, and for trying to become better than I am. I shall go to school very happy to-day."

"I am truly glad, Anna; but always remember this: Every soul is created by the same God—purchased by the blood of the same Saviour, and has an individual life as dear to God as any other life.

"The Christian is peculiarly precious to Him, and however humble in this world's estimate, is an heir to His eternal glory and happiness; and so the Christian should, whatever may be his gifts or calling, possess that quietness and dignity of spirit, that, resting in the consciousness of God's love and approval, he will not be greatly moved by the applause or the displeasure of his fellows."

"And so, mother, it saves a great many uncomfortable feelings to be a Christian."

"It saves a great amount of disappointed pride and wounded vanity, gives many a sweet night's sleep in thinking God will take care of our reputation, being willing to be what and where He will have us to be.

"On the whole, Anna, it is a happier, more comfortable thing, for the relations even of this life, to be a Christian; not a half-way disciple, but a whole-heart-and-soul believer, who keeps no reserves to sting conscience with. He will not feel a thousand things that sting others; and the real troubles that he must bear are shared by Him who has promised to carry our human sorrows.

"Be at peace with God, dear child, and let the love which that peace brings, speak in the very tones of your voice, in your manners, and in your ways. Then you need not be embarrassed if duty calls you either to a palace or to a hovel."

"I shall get my lessons better to-day for that thought, mother. I shall not feel half so vexed if I fail when I have done the best I can."

"That is the intention of religion always, my child, to keep the possessor calm, assured, and quite aside from the little jostlings and vexations of a self-seeking life."

"The past is written, the future is beyond our control, but to-day is ours, and is an opportunity to bestow a gift which will be more welcome than any that money can purchase. There should be no guesswork concerning affection; 'make it plain,' 'write it large.' 'Silence is golden' when it represses bitter words or ignorant comment, but it sinks like lead into the heart which has a right to expect tender and trustful utterances."