The Measuring Rod by Delia Porter

NOTE: I have been looking for this story by Delia Porter for some time, finally found it and transcribed it as it was originally written. Though it is lengthy and a bit archaic, I do believe it is well-worth the time it takes to read it. Enjoy! Dori 🙂

I dreamed that I was on my way to school, when suddenly I noticed a great crowd upon the green. People were hurrying to and fro, and when I asked what the commotion was about, a girl said: — “Why don’t you know? It’s Measuring Day, and the Lord’s angel has come to see how much our souls have grown since last Measuring Day!”

“Measuring Day!” said I; “measuring souls! I never heard of such a thing,” and began to ask questions; but the girl hurried on, and after a little I let myself be pressed along with the crowd to the green.

There in the center, on kind of a throne under the great elm, was the most glorious and beautiful being I ever saw. He had white wings; his clothes were a strange, shining sort of white, and he had the kindest and yet most serious face I had ever beheld. By his side there was a tall, golden rod fastened upright in the ground, with curious marks at regular intervals from the top to bottom.

Over it, on a golden scroll, were the words: “The measure of the stature of a perfect man.” The angel held in his hand a large book, in which he wrote the measurements as the people came upon the calling of their names in regular turns. The instant each one touched the golden measure a most wonderful thing happened. No one could escape the terrible accuracy of the strange rod. Each one shrank from or increased to his true dimensions — his spiritual dimensions, as I soon learned, for it was an index of the soul-growth which was shown in this mysterious way, so that even we could see with our eyes what otherwise the angel alone could have perceived.

The first few who were measured after I came I did not know; but soon the name Elizabeth Darrow was called. She is the president of the Aid for the Destitute Society, you know, and she manages ever so many other societies, too, and I thought; “Surely, Mrs. Darrow’s measure will be very high indeed.” But as she stood by the rod, the instant she touched it she seemed to grow shorter and shorter, and the angel’s face grew very serious as he said: “This would be a soul of high stature if only the zeal for outside works which can be seen of men had not checked the lowly, secret graces of humility and trust and patience under little trials. These, too, are needed for perfect soul-growth.”

I pitied Mrs. Darrow as she moved away with such a sad face, to make room for the next. It was poor, thin, little Betsy Lines, the seamstress. I never was more astonished in my life than when she took her stand by the rod, and immediately she increased in height till her mark was higher than any I had seen before; and her face shone so, I thought it must have caught its light from the angel’s, which smiled so gloriously that I envied poor little Betsy, whom before I had rather looked down upon. And as the angel wrote in the book, he said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

The next was Lilian Edgar, who dresses so beautifully that I have often whished I had such clothes and so much money. The angel looked sadly at her measure, for it was very low — so low that Lilian turned pale as death, and her beautiful clothes no one noticed at all, for they were quite overshadowed by the glittering robes beside her. And the angel said, in a solemn tone: “O child, why take thought for raiment? Let your adorning be, not outward adorning of putting on of apparel, but let it be the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is, in the sight of God, of great price. Thus only can you grow like the Master.”

Old Jerry, the cobbler, came next — poor, old, clumsy Jerry; but as he hobbled up the steps the angel’s face fairly blazed with light, and he smiled on him, and led him to the rod; and behold! Jerry’s measure was higher than any of the others. The angel’s voice rang out so loud and clear that we all heard it, saying: “He that humbleth himself as a little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

And then, oh, my name came next! and I trembled so I could hardly reach the angel, but he put his arm around me and helped me to stand by the rod. As soon as I touched it I felt myself growing shorter and shorter, and though I stretched and stretched and strained every nerve to be as tall as possible, I could only reach Lilian’s mark — Lilian’s, the lowest of all, and I a member of the church for two years! I grew crimson for shame, and whispered to the angel: “Oh, give me another chance before you mark me in the book so low as this. Tell me how to grow: I will do it all so gladly, only do not put this mark down!”

The angel shook his head sadly: — “The record must go down as it is, my child. May it be higher when I next come! This rule will help thee: ‘Whatsoever though doest, do it heartily, as to the Lord, in singleness of heart as unto Christ.’ The same earnestness which thou throwest into other things will, with Christ’s help, make thee grow in grace.”

And with that I burst into tears, and I suddenly awoke and found myself crying. But oh, I shall never forget that dream! I was so ashamed of my mark.

Do any of my readers know any girl who throws more enthusiasm into everything than into the most important of all — the growth of her Christian character?