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Walking by Faith, Not by Sight, Part 1

with Jennifer Rothschild | June 24, 2010

When teenager Jennifer Rothschild started having trouble seeing, she thought she needed new glasses; she was shocked to discover she would need to adapt to life as a woman permanently blind. Jennifer learned to thrive by faith and not sight.

When teenager Jennifer Rothschild started having trouble seeing, she thought she needed new glasses; she was shocked to discover she would need to adapt to life as a woman permanently blind. Jennifer learned to thrive by faith and not sight.

Walking by Faith, Not by Sight, Part 1

With Jennifer Rothschild
|
June 24, 2010
| Download Transcript PDF

Jennifer:  This is not what I expected to hear that day.  Blindness is one of those words we just don’t ever expect to hear.

(song lyrics)

In a world of darkness,

Things can seem unsure.

The kind of word that falls deep to the bottom of your soul.  And it scrapes everything on the way down that you once anticipated gave you security, and made sense.  And it left… me…silent.

(song lyrics)

But I know for certain

I can stand secure

For there is a life within me

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, June 24th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  Today, Jennifer Rothschild shares with us lessons she’s learned about walking by faith and not by sight. 

(song lyrics)

I’m walking’ by faith,

Faith in His faithfulness

Faith in His mercy, that’s making a way.

 

I’m trusting His grace

Grace that is holding me

Grace that is showing me

Each step to take as I’m walking…

I’m walking by faith.

Bob:  Welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  Have you ever stopped to think how much the Bible has to say about sight, and seeing, and vision, and just how that spiritual metaphor of light and sight?  It really is a profound picture of being spiritually aware.

Dennis:  Yes, and He gave us five senses so that, I believe, we could experience Him, see Him, and ultimately trust Him.  Yet, it’s interesting, Bob, in the Bible occasionally you’ll find those senses contrasted with a spiritual principle.  I’m thinking of 2 Corinthians 5, which really I think is going to have a lot to say about the message we’re going to hear today.  It says, “For we walk by faith, and not by sight.”

Bob:  Right.

Dennis:  It’s real easy to be from the “Show Me State” of Missouri, because I am.

(laughter)

The “Show Me State” says, “If I see it, I’ll believe it.”  But, God, in Scripture, I believe, repeatedly calls us to believe it before we see it.

Bob:  Yes.  And you remember our friend, Jennifer Rothschild, who was here.

Dennis:  She’s from Missouri, too, Springfield, Missouri.

Bob:  Right.  Just north of where you grew up.  She was here a number of years ago, and we had a great time visiting with her. 

I was recently at the True Woman ‘10 conference, in Chattanooga.  I was there not because I go to women’s conferences regularly, but I got invited to emcee this particular conference and to do a workshop while I was there.  It was a great time. 

Jennifer got up on Friday morning and shared this message with the ladies who were there.  I thought we need to share this with our FamilyLife Today listeners, and let them know about True Woman ‘10 that’s going to be happening in September, in Indianapolis, and in October, in Fort Worth.  And let them know there’s an opportunity for them to register and be at one of these upcoming conferences.  Really it is a great conference for women.

Dennis:  It really is.  Our friend, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, gives leadership to that ministry.  I believe she is a prophetic voice today for the Christian community; especially to the hearts of women.  And if women haven’t been to one of these conferences, they really need to go.  Because what you’re going to get a little taste of, here in the next few minutes, here on FamilyLife Today, are the kinds of speakers you’ll hear at one of these events.

Bob:  And the women, who were at True Woman ’10, in Chattanooga, were very encouraged as Jennifer Rothschild shared from her own life, her own experience.  She has been blind since she was a teenager.  And, as it turns out, she has learned a lot—about life, and about God, and about faith—from struggling with her own blindness.  Here’s Jennifer Rothschild…

Jennifer:  It was the late ‘70’s, and I was a teenage girl.  I was 15, and I had gotten my first diary.  I would write down everything in my diary that mattered to me.  And you know when you’re 15 a lot of things matter. 

I would write down what I wore to school, and what I wanted to be when I grew up, and if a boy talked to me.  And in the margins of my diary, I would doodle because I loved art.  I loved to draw.  In fact I wanted to be an artist.  In fact I had, you know, a little bit of a degree of talent because I was asked by my class to represent us on Field Day, as “the artist.” 

So I got a brand new white bed sheet, and I took it to school this particular morning.  A friend of mine and I unwrapped it and unfurled it upon the brightly lit gymnasium floor.  As I began to sketch in the middle of this sheet, I noticed that the sheet was dirty.  There were little patches of gray up toward the top left hand corner.  And of course I was bothered by this, and I went to wipe it away, but I couldn’t seem to get the dust off the sheet.

The more I really focused on the detail of what I was drawing, the more I noticed it over toward the right side of the bed sheet.  It appeared that someone had taken a Sharpie and jammed it, leaving dark black spots.  Well, of course I tried to clear those off and they remained. 

I remember saying to my girlfriend, “I don’t get this!  We just unpackaged this sheet.  It should not be dirty.  This should be bright, clean, white.”  To which my friend said, “Jennifer? I don’t know what you’re talking about.  This sheet is completely white.”  That was the first time I had a hint something was wrong with my eyes. 

It wasn’t long after, that my mom and I were going to visit a friend, who lived in an upstairs apartment.  And as she and I walked up those stairs—I was stumbling.  My mom stopped mid-stride and asked, “Jennifer, what’s wrong?  Can you not see those stairs?”  My response, “What do you mean, Mom?  You can?” 

Well, it didn’t take long until I was at the eye doctor, and then an eye hospital in Miami, Florida.  After several days of testing at this eye hospital, the doctors had my folks and me sit down in a conference room where they began to explain what they had discovered. 

I had a disease in both of my retinas, called retinitis-pigmentosa.  I had had it for several years, just hadn’t really been able to detect that it was present.  But within a few months as a 15 year old, it became so rapidly active, that I was declared legally blind. 

What it meant was that a significant portion of my retina had already deteriorated.  But moreover, the prognosis of the disease was that the entirety—the remainder of my retinas—would deteriorate until I was declared totally blind. 

That’s just not what I expected to hear that day.  Blindness is one of those words—like cancer, like divorce, like autism, like bankruptcy—that we just don’t ever expect to hear.  And we certainly don’t expect it to become our word.  The kind of word that invades our ideal picture of what faith is supposed to be.  The kind of word that falls deep to the bottom of your soul, and it scrapes everything on the way down that you once anticipated gave you security, and made sense.  And it left…me…silent. 

And on the way home my daddy didn’t speak, as he gripped that steering wheel.  I know he was praying.  My mother sat to his right.  Women understand, whether you are a mother or not, what my mom felt:  that intuitive desire and need to take it upon herself, so that I didn’t have to deal with it. 

We finally got home, and I went into our living room where our old upright piano sat.  We’d had that piano since I was eight years old.  My mother bought it at a garage sale.  And I had had piano lessons for several years. 

The silence was finally broken as I began to play the piano.  And the song that flowed from my heart, through my fingers, and filled my living room is the same song that still fills my darkness today, with a hope and a truthfulness.  Because it was that old beloved Protestant hymn that says “It is well with my soul.”

You know what I’ve learned as a “true woman” who navigates in the darkness of faith and blindness?  It doesn’t have to be well with your circumstances for it to be well with your soul.  We don’t wait for our circumstances to change so that we can experience a level of contentment in our faith.  We ask God to change us in the midst of those circumstances. 

People have asked me over the years, “Do you pray for healing?”  And, to be quite honest with you—I don’t.  Now there are days that are really dark and really bad where I will just cry out to God, “Please take it away.”  But as a matter of my own prayers and spiritual disciplines, I don’t ask God for healing because I trust Him to do it.  I know He’s capable.  I want to rest in His sovereignty. 

But you know what I really need more than healing?  I need contentment.  Because if I don’t learn contentment in the midst of this circumstance is, then if by the mercy of God, He delivers me from it, I will be grumpy about something else.  And there are women in this room, who are not redeeming the difficulty God has allowed in your life because you assume you’ll be content when your circumstance changes.  But my sisters—true contentment only comes in the midst of the difficult circumstance; because God makes it well with your soul.  Not always your circumstance.

Well, I went back to high school and because of such radical changes in my eyes, you can imagine, it called for some real adjustments.  So my folks took me out of my very large public high school, in Miami, and put me in a smaller Christian school, in Miami, Florida.

And word got around, real quickly in this school that the new girl couldn’t see.  Well, that meant that the new girl became very popular to be asked on dates, because these boys knew I couldn’t see how ugly they were. 

(laughter)

And it was true:  I couldn’t see my face; I couldn’t see their face.  But, there were a lot of adjustments that came during that time.  One of them for me, though, that was the most difficult was this recognition that what I longed for I would probably never have.  And itwasn’t just becoming an artist, though that was a deep disappointment. 

For me, what I really longed for was independence; and ability to drive a car; to make my own decisions; to look in the mirror and decide if I liked the color that I was wearing that day.  And suddenly independence, on every level, was being stripped away.  Consequently, creating an insatiable thirst for independence, which I figured the only way to really quench it, would be to go off to college. 

By this time, I was a senior in high school, and I had decided that that would do it.  So I was going to go an hour and a half north of my home, to Palm Beach Atlantic University.  That was 90 miles north (you know—close enough to be close, far enough to be far). 

And so that summer, after I graduated from high school, I got trained to walk with a white cane.  So I had a sense of mobility, and a little bit of confidence.  I even learned to navigate those busy streets in West Palm Beach.  I was feeling real good about it.  It was 1982.  That meant that my mother and I went shopping for the…(clears throat)…rainbow comforter, the rainbow soap dish, the rainbow shower curtain, the rainbow wall hangings, the rainbow dust ruffles, the rainbow towels…everything was rainbows in 1982 for my dorm room.  I was ready to go. 

I bought all my Espadrilles.  Do you remember 1982?  Uh-hum.  All my Chino pants and my Oxford shirts; I thought I was so happenin’ and ready.  And so, on August 15, I was to be a freshman on the campus of Palm Beach Atlantic.  And I thought it was the best idea ever, until—August 14. 

(laughter)

At about three o’clock in the afternoon, it hit me.  I’m about to go off to college, and I don’t know anybody, and who’s going to help me?  I remember calling my mom out into the front yard, and crying, and negotiating, and lamenting, “Mom, I can’t do this.  I don’t know what I was thinking!  I can’t go to college.  Who’s going to tell me what food’s on my plate.  Who’s going to help me know I ironed wrinkles out of my pants, rather than into them?  How am I really going to know it’s safe to cross that street in the middle of the campus?  How am I really going to know?”  I was terrified. 

My mom, who wiped away her own tears, said, “Jennifer, you have to go to college.  You chose to go to college.  You have prepared to go to college.  And you’ve got to go.  But, you only have to go to college for two weeks.  If you can’t handle it, your daddy and I will come pick you up, and you can keep the rainbow comforter.”

(laughter)

Now that was quite an arrangement.  We put all 13 of my Espadrilles in the trunk of the Ford Fairmont.  And we drove 90 miles north.  I remember hugging my mom in the parking lot of Northwood Dorm.  We tearfully parted ways.  I flipped out my cane with just enough attitude to get through 14 days.  No more.  No less.  Well, within the first 14 days of being a freshman, and on the campus of Palm Beach Atlantic, I met this guy.

(laughter)

He was in the cafeteria line, and he was like no other guy I had ever met.  He had the most charismatic personality.  His voice smiled.  I’m telling you, I liked everything about this guy.  I remember calling my mom within the first 14 days, and saying, “Oh Mom, I’ve met this guy, named Philip Rothschild.  Please!  Don’t ever make me come home from college again!” 

(laughter)

Well, it took him four long years, but he did accept my marriage proposal.  And that’s the gentleman you saw walk me on stage. 

(applause)

Yep.  Now here’s the deal, ladies.  For some of you in this room, it’s August 14.  Some of you are looking at your future, and you’re thinking, “What was I thinking?  I can’t deal with all this truth.  This is a little much for me.  When I look into my future, it’s uncertain.”

“When I open my family photo album, the pictures aren’t so attractive.  I’m not sure this is something I really can do.”  And, so much of the reason we hover in the front yard of our life, and it’s always August 14, is because we are so dominated by our feelings.  I was terrified. 

Fear is a legitimate emotion.  You should pay attention to it.  But, you should allow it to become for you, an intuitive detective that holds the hand of God, and walks you to the place of truth.  You don’t assume that fear is your destination.  Fear is your tour guide that takes you to the place of truth, so you can discern whether it is a godly and appropriate fear, or not.  When we are women who want to really walk with God that means we truly walk by faith.  Not feelings.

Some of us are hovering, right now, on August 14, and saying, “Oh, what if…?  What if I really do trust God more than my feelings?”  What if?  Or, “What if I really do try to…try to really trust God and follow His Word and my husband doesn’t take it well?”  What if?  What if?

Some of you are so dominated by fear that it’s like this, “What if don’t get the spinach clean and my family gets e-coli?”  “What if…what if my husband loses his job?  What if…my baby never recovers?”

“What if…” is the language of fear and speculation.  We, as women who want to truly follow God and walk by faith, we don’t speak “What if?”  We speak “What is.”  Here’s “What is”—God, who called you, is faithful.  The same God, in the book of Isaiah, chapter 45, who said, “I will give you treasures in darkness” is the same God who is speaking to you, saying, “It may be August 14, and you may be looking ahead of you, and you may be seeing nothing but darkness and uncertainty; but He is the God who will give you treasures in darkness.  Riches that are stored and hidden in those secret places.”

But, you may never receive them if you choose to cling to that which is known and certain.  If you hover in the front yard of your life, and you always let it be August 14, saying, “What if..?  What if..?”

Be women, who say, “Here’s what it is.  God is faithful, and I trust Him more than I trust my feelings.”

 

(song lyrics)

I’m trusting His grace

Grace that is holding me

Grace that is showing me

Each step to take

As I’m walking…I’m walking by faith.

And I’ll keep walking, Lord…

Walking by faith.

Bob:  Well, we’ve been listening to Part One of a message from Jennifer Rothschild.  A message from the True Woman ‘10 conference, held in Chattanooga, earlier this year.  It’s a great reminder that walking by faith and not by sight means that you take God at His word and even when you’re afraid, or when your feelings are screaming, you say, “I’m going to believe God.”

Dennis:  And you’re also saying, “I’m going to walk by faith, and not by feelings.”

Bob:  Yes.

Dennis:  Faith is not a feeling.  My friend, Ney Bailey, wrote a book about that.  And how I wish I wasn’t so controlled by feelings sometimes—whether it’s fear, worry, anxiety, anger.  We, as human beings, are susceptible to walking by feelings.  And the call of Scripture is away from what you’re feeling, and a call to trusting, believing and betting your life on the Scripture.

I don’t know what you’re facing today; what you’re going through as a single person, married, parent, perhaps a grandparent.  But God’s calling you to walk by faith, and be obedient to Him.  Whether you see it or whether you feel it but to just go to the bank on the Scriptures.

Bob:  You know, Jennifer has just recently finished a devotional book that she’s written for women, called Fresh Grounded Faith, where she shares a number of the insights that she has learned through a life of blindness.  And we’ve got copies of her book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. 

You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com, and the information about her book is available there.  Again, it is called Fresh Grounded Faith.  The website’s FamilyLifeToday.com.

And let me also mention that this message was originally presented at the True Woman ‘10 conference, in Chattanooga, back in March.  There are two more True Woman ‘10 conferences coming up this year:  one in Indianapolis, in September; and one in Fort Worth, Texas, in October. 

And there’s a link on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com to the True Woman website—

If you’d like to get more information, or perhaps register for one of these upcoming conferences  go to FamilyLifeToday.com, and you can link over to the True Woman website. 

I’m going to be at both of the events, as the emcee.  I hope you can come out and be at one of these two events.  These are great two-day conferences for women with a line-up of great speakers who are going to be there.  Again, get more information when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com, and click the link for the True Woman ‘10 conferences.

Let me say a word of thanks to those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  As we head into the summer months, honestly we’re heading in at a little lower spot than we usually head into summer; a point where our giving to FamilyLife has been down over the spring months.  Of course summertime is often a slow time for ministries, in terms of receiving donations from listeners. 

That’s why we would love to hear from you today, if you can help with a donation of any amount.  Your support is what helps keep FamilyLife Today on the air on this station, and on our network of stations all across the country.  It would be a great encouragement to us if you were able to make a $10, or a $15, or a $20 donation—whatever you’re able to do. 

Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and make your donation online, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, and make your donation by phone.  And, as a way of saying thank you for your financial support, we’d love to send you a copy of a book by Truett Cathy.  He’s the founder of the Chick-fil-A restaurants.  He’s written a book called, It’s Better to Build Boys, Than Mend Men.   It’s about how we raise our sons to be young men of character. 

That book is our thank you gift to you when you make a donation of any amount this month.  If you’d like to receive a copy of the book, type the word “BOYS” in the key code box that you find on the online donation form.  Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.  Make your donation by phone, and just mention that you’d like a copy of the book on “Building Boys,” and we’re happy to send it out to you.  And, let me just say thanks, in advance, for whatever you’re able to do in support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  We appreciate your partnership with us.

And we hope you can be back with us tomorrow when we’re going to hear Part Two of Jennifer Rothschild’s message on lessons she’s learned from a life of blindness.  That comes up tomorrow, and we hope you can be back for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey.  I’m Bob Lepine.  We’ll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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