Drawing faces or caricatures of friends and family, Jennifer Rothschild remembers always loving art.
BR photo by Steve Cooke
Jennifer Rothschild discussed when she lost her sight as a teenager with partipants in this year’s Baptists on Mission conference at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. She stressed that even through tough times, “It is Well With My Soul,” referring to an old hymn. See BRnow.org/Photo-Gallery.
Rothschild gave her testimony during the March 17-18 Baptists on Mission conference at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. She also led a breakout session called “When Life Isn’t Fair.” The theme for the event was “Reconciled” based on 2 Corinthians 5:18.
She was 15 when she got her first diary and proceeded to write down everything, “what I wore, what boy talked to me at school that day,” she said. In the margins, she would draw caricatures. Because of her talent for art, her class chose her to make a banner for field day.
It was while drawing the school’s mascot on a white bed sheet that she noticed there were problems with the sheet. It looked like a marker had damaged the white sheet. Rothschild tried wiping the spots away, but her friend said the sheet was perfectly white.
A few days later, Rothschild was at an eye doctor followed by a visit to an eye hospital where she was diagnosed with a progressive eye disease and declared legally blind.
“Some things began to make sense,” she said, like her math grades – she couldn’t see the board. “To be honest, there were a lot more things that didn’t make sense.”
After hearing a prognosis of total blindness, Rothschild said she felt a “soul silence.”
Words like “blindness” or “cancer,” “you just don’t expect it to ever be your word,” she said.
“The silence that fell in the conference room seemed to follow us home,” she said as she reminisced about her dad’s knuckles gripped to the steering wheel.
“My dad was my pastor,” she said. “He was the one who led me to Christ. He was the one who baptized me. My dad knew everything, and my dad was silent. I can only imagine what he was praying that day.”
In that 40-minute drive home, she realized her dreams of becoming an artist were dashed.
Upon returning home, Rothschild sat down at an old, upright piano and began to play. While she had lessons when she was younger, piano was not something she practiced or kept up, but that day she “played in a way that I hadn’t played before.”
By ear, she played “It is Well.”
“It was almost as if God, in all of His mercy, allowed a door to be closed at that eye hospital and allowed another door to be opened right there as I played that piano.”
It was because of Christ that “He made it well with my soul,” she said. “I mean, the truth is, sisters and brothers, it is not always well with our circumstances, and on that day, and even on this day, it was not well with my circumstances.”
Rothschild’s parents moved her to a smaller Christian school from the large public school she was attending in Miami. She went on to a Christian college about 90 miles from her family. “Facing dark sometimes may be bigger than our faith,” she said, referencing Isaiah 45:3 where treasures are found in darkness. “Sometimes we don’t experience the treasures because we are not willing to step into the dark. Sometimes we don’t hear His voice because we have not stepped out of our comfort zone to a place where we can hear Him more clearly.”
Rothschild, now 53, and her husband have two boys, born about 10 years apart. They are expecting their first grandchild.
“I’ve learned that I can be blind with the Lord, but there’s no way I can be blind without Him,” she said. “I’m learning that with blindness grief and gratefulness can share the same heartbeat. No matter how heavy your burden is, the glory is going to be heavier. What is seen is temporary; what is unseen is eternal so let us fix our eyes on Jesus.”
Rothschild began her breakout session quoting A.W. Tozer: “What comes into our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
She asked people to think, “What do I think about God?”
“Is God just not fair? Or is God just, not fair?
When in doubt she urged people to think about Psalm 18:30, which describes God’s perfect ways.
“The reality is, they don’t always feel perfect for us,” she said.
Referring to the workers in Matthew 20, the landowner had offered to pay people for their work but some had worked way less than the workers who had been sweating all day in the fields.
“[The] wage offered was the same to all the workers regardless of how much or how little they worked,” she said.
“Sometimes it’s because we associate equality and fairness with God being just. I’m really convinced that you and I are probably more grateful that God isn’t fair as we define fairness.”
Rothschild emphasized the acronym FAIR.
F – Fix your eyes on Jesus.
“When we fix our eyes on Jesus, then we have the perspective that we need,” she said. “When we consider Him then we don’t lose heart.”
A – Admit your pain.
“Lots of us in the church … are hesitant to be honest when things just aren’t working out in our hearts or in our minds,” she said. “We don’t like to admit our struggles often, because we think it makes God look bad or perhaps because of our faith we shouldn’t have these feelings or questions.
“But I believe, to really live authentically and to show forth the strength and glory of God, we admit our pain because it’s in our weaknesses where His strength is magnified.”
Rothschild said it’s possible to be authentic before God and others in a way that brings God glory rather than attention to you for the wrong reasons.
“When we are mature in Christ and we’re living by His grace, we learn that balance,” she said.
I – Invite God’s presence.
Describing herself as a lone-ranger Christian, Rothschild said she leans towards emphasizing the words “I can” in Philippians 4:13 rather than God’s strength.
“When I do that, I don’t invite God’s presence into my situation,” she said, but when we do invite God’s presence, it allows for more intimacy with Him.
“Only in His presence is there clarity and light,” she said.
R – Rest in Him.
“Sometimes you can’t find rest in your situation, but we can always find rest in the Lord,” Rothschild said. “The older I get, I really think there’s one of two postures we take in life.
We’re either going to wrestle, or we’re going to rest. There’s really very little neutral.”
It is through resting in the Lord that “we begin to experience perhaps all of the blessings and lessons that He intended to tuck into that really difficult thing in our life for us to learn from and grow from,” she said.
A few years ago, Rothschild admitted she really had a crash, where the weight of her blindness felt overwhelming. “I wasn’t admitting my pain,” she said. “I wasn’t inviting God into my situation. I was wrestling with every aspect of it.”
She read the Bible but she couldn’t hear God.
Reading C.S. Lewis, her favorite author, led her back to the Bible. “I just needed somebody with skin on to say ‘I’ve been there’ and he’s a million times smarter than me so man, there was a point there where I thought if he can rest in this, then so can I,” she said.
“[God] withholds no good thing from us,” Rothschild stressed. “He’s given us Himself, and if you don’t have an answer, if you don’t have satisfaction in your situation, you’ve been already given Christ, and He’s far more satisfying than any answer.”