I recently saw a post where a Canadian wedding photographer and blogger created an Anne of Green Gables themed wedding shoot. As soon as I saw this post, I instantly posted it to my Facebook page with a comment that noted that, “this shoot is enough to motivate me to try dating again. Now to find Gil!” When I was a girl I was in love with Lucy Maude Montgomery’s 1908 novel about Anne Shirley from Green Gables in Prince Edwards Island. I was also in love with the three film adaptations of L.M. Montgomery’s book made for t.v. and broadcasted on PBS throughout the late 80s and early 90s. I was also in love with the character Gilbert Blythe who Anne (eventually) falls in love with.
After seeing the wedding post, I decided to watch all three of the Anne of Green Gables movies this weekend. I was reliving memories of reading the books on warm summer days and imagining what it would be like to live on Prince Edward Island. I also remember watching the movies on my mom’s bed with my mom and my sister. I would watch as my sister pulled her hair up on to her head transforming herself into a Gibson Girl while I dreamt of having dresses with leg-o-mutton sleeves.
As I watched Gil and Anne’s love story unfold before me on the pages and on screen, I would imagine what it would feel like to find someone as special as Gil. What makes Gilbert Blythe such a “swoon worthy” character is that he is truly a good man. His love for Anne is not measured merely in her beauty. In fact, the characters in Avonlea all find it peculiar that this dashing young man finds a smart girl to be far more appealing than a pretty one.
What makes Gil so appealing is that he loves everything about Anne. The aspects of Anne’s personality that others find challenging, Gil finds enchanting. Anne is hot tempered, impatient ,theatrical, emotional, and impulsive (much like me). She is intelligent, ambitious, fiercely independent, and incredibly loyal (hey, like me, too!). Gil never tries to change Anne, but accepts her just the way that she is.
What makes Gil’s love for Anne so unique is that it is completely selfless and without reservation. He sacrifices his position at the school giving it to Anne, so she can take it instead and stay at Green Gables ( to care for Marilla). He cheers on Anne when she delivers her recitation of “The Highway Man” at the recital (even though she rejected his offer to be her escort). He offers her rides home several times, is always pushing her to become the best writer she can be, and even saves her from drowning (when she plays the Lady of Shalott). Even when Anne wouldn’t speak to him, he was forgiving. He patiently and silently loved Anne even when she was unkind to him and never, ever asked for anything back in return. Gil always sees the best in Anne even when she does not see it herself.
Gil seeks to be with Anne and when he proposes and she rejects him, he feels hurt, but let’s her go. He acknowledges and respects Anne’s will and does not try to manipulate or coerce her. Eventually, she realizes she loves him too and makes a deliberate choice to be with him. Their love grows out of mutual respect and friendship. Before they married, they were friends. Their love was not built on rainbows, but on a solid foundation. By the time they enter married life together, they had gotten to know each other by fully seeing the good and the bad in each other and loving both parts equally.
How did I see God in Gilbert Blythe? Well, if God is in all things then he is love. God created love and God created us to love. Our love should be life giving.
To think of God in love, we must think of four types of love: eros, storge, phileo, and agape. What Gil and Anne have is close to Phileo and Agape. Agape is this unique, unconditional, selfless, outpouring type of love. I don’t believe humans are fully capable of true Agape love, but I think we can come close. God loves us with Agape and we should strive to love others with this selfless, Agape love. Most of us experience Storge. Storge is an affectionate love. This is often the love we have for friends and family. For Anne, she felt deep Storge for Marilla and Matthew. Anne experienced Phileo with Diana as they are “bosom friends” and “kindred spirits.” She and Diana have a rare and lasting relationship because they have a deep understanding of each other which then, brings them a deep love for each other. Eros, which comes from the word Erotic, is a more romantic and passionate love. Eros is often fleeting as it is primarily sensual, romantic, sexual, and affectionate. It is not bad, it is just often misunderstood. Eros is needed in marriage, but a couple needs more than Eros to have a deep and lifelong connection.
What Gil and Anne share is strong and lasting. They have learned to love each other truly. I think what is important to note is that Gil and Anne did not start out as friends. In school, Gil and Anne were academic rivals. Gil even teased Anne a lot when they were kids. Eventually, they saw the good in each-other and developed affectionate, friendly feelings for each-other. However, they didn’t experience Eros for each other. They grew in Storge for each other as companions. When Gil nearly died of Scarlet Fever, Anne sat at his bedside confessing her love for him. Gil did the same. They had both made a deliberate decision to be with each other at this moment. When Gil got better, he proposed to Anne again, but this time reminded her that “it was not going to be marble halls,” indicating that he was going off to medical school and could not offer her the dreamy, Romantic, Tennyson love she had build in her head. She told him, “I don’t want sunbursts or marble halls, I just want you.” These were two people standing side by side together looking ahead to the great unknown. They have seen both each other’s weakness and strengths and said, “yes, I will love you-all of you.”
Gil and Anne give me something to strive towards for two reason: 1.) because I seek lasting love in the context of marriage and 2.) because their love presents me with a challenge to examine my own life and how I might be able to deepen my existing relationship and extend sacrificial love to others. Not all of us will enter intimate partnerships that will lead to marriage. However, each of us can love. We are called to love because we were built to love. We should strive to love others the way God loves us with unfailing Agape love.