We can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by learning to walk with Christ. Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace, and He can help us to live peaceably with all mankind. I have often heard counsel to live my life as though Christ were right beside me and have tried to follow that counsel. Even though I am not perfect in my attempts, I have been blessed as I have tried to walk with Christ.
I read a story many years ago while in my teens that made a huge impact on me. I would have read the story over and over through the years, but I could not find it again. I could not even remember whether it was a story or a book. I recently found the story again and would like to share part of it with my readers while also encouraging you to find the story and read it in its entirety. It may very well change your life as it did mine!
The story was written by Janet Craig and is entitled “Twenty-four Golden Hours.” I found it in a book entitled Minute Masterpieces by Lucy Gertsch – which I inherited from my mother-in-law. The story begins with a young woman named Charlotte – same as my mother-in-law - who was having a difficult time and was very unhappy with her life. “Everything was wrong. Her ambitions were thwarted; her friends were common place; her home unattractive, her own personality unlovely, as she was well aware. The problem was too much for Charlotte. She seemed caught in a current of circumstances that was carrying her into an ugly and unsatisfying life, and she could not escape.
“She went to the one person who seemed to be leading the kind of life that she passionately desired, Margaret Ames, lovely, popular, gifted, and successful, lived in a cottage studio set in a flower garden. There she painted those charming little water colors which were in such demand that they were always sold in advance. And Margaret was so kind, so willing to help, that you dared go to her with your problems. In the charming studio Charlotte poured out the story of her heartache over her frustrated, unhappy life. She told all the details, the poverty, the ugliness, the disappointment about school, the unsympathetic family, the careless friends, her own lack of charm and beauty. Margaret after a gentle word of sympathy said, `You can change all that if you really have the will to do it.’
“`How? How?’ cried Charlotte. `I’ll do anything, no matter how hard.’
“`Will you, indeed? It is not hard at all, it only takes time. You see, you must sow the seed for another kind of life, and wait with patience for it to grow. Here is a test to see whether you truly have the will: Live for twenty-four hours as if Christ were right beside you, seeing everything that you do. Then come to me again, and we’ll talk it over. Will you do that?’”
Charlotte agreed to the test and started making changes as soon as she returned home. She not only set the table for dinner, but she put a clean tablecloth on the table and added some fresh flowers. She put extra effort into the dinner. Her family noticed the differences but made derogatory remarks. Instead of making hasty retorts, Charlotte took a minute and replied as she would if Christ were beside her. She willingly washed the dishes even though it was not her turn.
Later Charlotte joined her friends at a party. Instead of thinking of herself, she remembered that Christ was right beside her and did what she could to insure that others had a wonderful time. On the way home she overheard other girls speaking kindly of her.
The next day Charlotte went to work and found a friend worried about her mother. She offered to cover both jobs so her friend could go home. She helped fussy customers and treated them with respect and a smile. Her supervisor noticed and complimented her.
That evening Charlotte returned to the home of Margaret Ames to report. “`I tried it, Mrs. Ames, just as well as I could, and – well, it made everything different. I think I can see what you mean. Of course, it didn’t change the things that are bothering me. I’m still poor, and can’t go to school, and I live in an ugly house, and I don’t know the sort of people I’d like to----‘
“`Ah, my dear! But you only started the seed-sowing twenty-four hours ago. When you first put the seed in, the garden doesn’t look different, does it? But it’s on the way to becoming different. In three months it will be bright with bloom, not drab with dull, brown earth. That will be the way with you. You say these handicaps in your life haven’t changed. But you’ve started to change them. Can you keep on as you’ve begun, and “wait patiently” for the Lord, as the Psalmist tells us? You will cease to be poor, and without opportunity. Friends will be drawn to you. Doors will open before you. Your surroundings will blossom into beauty. You have the magic word. It is Christ. Fretting or even effort doesn’t change things very much; but Christ does. Just remember to keep your daily walk very close to him.’”
The story ended with Charlotte agreeing to make the effort to keep Christ beside her. This story had a great impact on my life, and I hope you will find it and read it. By following the counsel in the story, we can strengthen our families, communities, and nations.