Really? Would I wish a 14 year-old girl (or anyone for that matter) to lose her eyesight? I wouldn’t have thought so. Yet, here I am thanking God for one bright and curious little girl who went blind and her dedicated and loving sister who replaced her eyesight with detailed descriptive accounts of their lives. Personally, reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books has created quiet special moments in my family that serve as a foundation for our unity. Moreover, Laura’s stories detailing the food, chores, and challenges of westward moving settlers provide an important account of American history not found elsewhere. Laura mentioned that when Mary lost her sight, Laura had to be her “eyes.” Thus, she learned to illustrate colors, landscapes, people, and events by weaving together words in order to replace images. One day God put it on my heart that without this experience Laura wouldn’t have produced the descriptive narratives we cherish for their peaceful bonding moments and American history portrayal. Thank you God for creating a lasting treasure from this tragedy. I pray today for a mother in the midst of mourning a set back for her own child to find comfort in the possibilities.
Additionally, I praise God for a woman’s premature death thus leaving behind seven precious children and a very lonesome husband. How tragic. On September 3rd, 1922 Agathe Whitehaed Von Trapp died of Scarlet Fever she had contracted from her daughter Agathe. (Amazingly, “Little Agatha” lived to be 97 only passing in 2011). You guessed it. I am not just a casual fan of the world’s most popular movie, “The Sound of Music.” You might say I am an addict. We have taken the tour in Salzburg, we speak German, wear dirndls and lederhosen, and watch and re-watch the movie. Yet, I think the actual family is more interesting than the one depicted in the film. Since I am someone familiar with mental illness and rage I found it especially interesting that one child said of Maria Von Trapp:
"She had a terrible temper. . . . And from one moment to the next, you didn't know what hit her. We were not used to this. But we took it like a thunderstorm that would pass, because the next minute she could be very nice."
I love so many things about The Sound of Music: the story, the music, the setting, and scenery. Mostly, I love the “theology” that we are to climb every mountain; that when God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window; we must face, not shut out our problems; that God is preparing each of us with incredible talents for His glory; and we never know which talents He might use or how, whether it is singing, leadership, or confidence. The only theology I disagree with is “I must have done something good…” depicting God as some sort of Santa Claus checking his list twice. But mostly I love that out of devastation came glory, not only for a family, but a worldwide story of hope and survival even in the most dire of situations.
Lastly, surprise, surprise, I was not thrilled when the tragedy was mine. I was shattered when I could find no help or support while my husband’s mental illness led to damaging rages, financial destruction, and a total sense of chaos for me and our three children. Why did my minister scold me for privately seeking him to console and advise me about help for mental illness? Why did my Deacon reprimand me for needing the safety of separation when my husband’s violence was more than I could bear? “God is clear about sticking with the marriage,” he would admonish. It was a lonely, devastating time. One that only quiet, prayer, and tears with our Lord can heal. Eventually strength came. I didn’t realize what a blessing their hubris and critical spirits were to me until recently when I started blogging. I found one of my faith essays on the “I hate God” Facebook page. There I saw hardened hearts totally closed to the Gospel and love of Christ. I wanted to argue, to set them straight, to make them love God. But my heart swelled, God whispered to me that they had been hurt just like I had. That somewhere along the line they had a hope or expectation of humans in the church and it was unmet. I wept. I knew He was right. Why do humans have to be so… human? Why does the church have to be “fixed” by those who are “broken?” I knew that I had a chance to share love, to listen, and to give. I knew that this gift was mine only because of the devastating experience I had had and now I was grateful for that gift.
Thank you God for the tragedies before us today. Let us hand over to you our devastations and sit back and watch you weave them into glory!
Note: It is worth restating that having a mental illness can be NO problem, denying it can be devastating.
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