Jennifer Rothschild: Still Walking by Faith
She's not exactly "the man born blind" or even blind Bartimeus. Both of those Biblical characters received their sight at the hands of the Master. But Jennifer Rothschild, who at the age of 15 was diagnosed with a rare, degenerative eye disease that eventually robbed her of sight, makes an eloquent argument that though she is still blind, she is just as blessed as those men.
"God has given me the opportunity to walk by faith because I cannot walk by sight," she says. "I have entered the classroom of darkness where I am learning to depend on God; learning how God's Word can sustain me when I can't see spiritually, emotionally, physically; learning to have spiritual stamina. If I have a platform to speak, it is only because of the goodness of God."
While Jennifer maintains a level of light perception – she can tell the difference between darkness and light – she says the physical light in her life is ineffectual. Her youthful dreams of a career as a commercial artist may have faded with her sight, but the feisty daughter of a Southern Baptist preacher discovered the treasures of darkness, and God moved her into a powerful teaching, speaking, writing, and singing ministry - primarily, she says, to women.
"Initially I directed my message to women because I am one," she laughs. "I also believe women have an incredible potential for affecting the family, the church, and the world. But the message is not intrinsically gender-specific. I get a lot of feedback from men who were impacted by my book, Lessons I Learned in the Dark. My husband likes to say, ‘It was written by a woman, but it's strong enough for a man.'"
Jennifer says her latest book, the interactive Bible study for women Walking by Faith: Lessons Learned in the Dark, is for the most part new material. "There are a few stories that are in both (books)," she says. "But Walking by Faith takes the student deeper. It takes you into what the Word of God says, rather than what I say, and it gives you a way to measure if you are walking by faith or by sight."
While the study can be done individually, Jennifer believes Walking by Faith can be more effective when used in a group environment, particularly when the accompanying DVD is employed. "There is a 20-minute teaching segment where we expound on what the student has learned, as well as a song that helps to move that information from their head into their heart, and maybe even worship that concept back to God.
"Iron sharpens iron," she says. "I think it is always beneficial when we can study together with our brothers and sisters in Christ."
After more than 20 years of blindness, Jennifer is still learning lessons in the dark. Recently she experienced a physical object lesson that illustrates the concept of God as our immovable rock. She went bungee jumping.
"My husband said, ‘You would never do that.' So, of course, I had to prove him wrong. I jumped from a platform 7 1/2 stories up. It is a strange feeling, falling into nothing. Of course you know you are tied to the bungee cord, but you don't feel it until it becomes effectual, which was not a pleasant experience. But it showed me that I was able to move beyond my boundaries. If we are going to walk by faith, we have to sacrifice fear to faith. In that moment I was terrified. It showed me the essence of walking by faith and taught me that we are tied to something (im)movable."
So, is Jennifer Rothschild an advocate of bungee jumping?
"I don't know that I would do it again," she laughs, "but I think everyone should try it once."