Not many pages of this book speak directly of Rachel Wyse’s faith and spirituality, yet they were the mainspring of her life. She lived in a simple intimacy with God. She saw everything in the light of God. That is why I call the book A Gift of Light.
Perhaps this is best shown in little flashes that come to my memory. Some are in the book, others not.
Faith and Spirituality
When Rachel (or, as we always called her, Sweetheart) was a little girl, she didn’t like speaking to anyone if she could not see their face, even if it was just her mother in the next room. So when she prayed, she urgently needed to feel God’s presence, and not just say words into the air. She would not leave her bedtime prayers until she had “made God real” to herself. Sometimes she would hide behind the curtain. Often it did not happen, but when it did — there was no need to say anything at all.
She continually read the Bible. She would read it upside down, to make herself go more slowly and think about it. Sometimes she read it in French, for the same purpose.
In youth she would wander the hills. At sixteen she felt she had lost God. This was a disaster, and she vowed not to eat or sleep until she had found him. Late at night an old hymn came to her:
“Oh to be nothing, nothing!”
That was all right then; if she was nothing, it didn’t matter whether she had any faith or not.
At nineteen she had a terrible toothache and could not sleep for a week. She thought, “If Jesus were here he would heal me. But he is here, as he promised. So he must have already done it, and I am too blind to see!” Feeling daring and perhaps wicked, she put away all the medicines, went to bed, slept soundly and woke up perfectly well.
When her mother was dying of cancer, in great pain, she remonstrated with God, almost angrily: at least let her go in peace! After a long struggle she suddenly saw Christ holding her mother’s head in his hands, and heard a voice:
“With me it is always peace.” This is told at length in the book.
In Toronto she had a young maidservant who loved a young man who left her. She was devastated. Sweetheart said to her, “say to yourself, ‘If God doesn’t want him to be with me then I don’t want it either; if God does want it then I can’t miss it!'” Sweetheart would hear her at night in bed, through her tears:
If God wants it I can’t miss it, if he doesn’t, neither do I!
The boy came back. Sweetheart gave them a little candlelit party.
She told us a verse once:
If the good of today
Bring pride on the morrow,
No longer a good will it be.
But the sin of today,
Repented with sorrow,
May prove a great good unto thee.
She saw God in people; in her watercolor portraits, she often made them appear more spiritual or soulful than one would have thought. She was alive to small mercies, as once in San Antonio, Texas, where she was making sketches of soldiers in the hospital to send to their families, waiting for a bus in the heat, she asked for relief, and a delightful little breeze sprang up.
Her closeness to God gave her a sense of love for people, for animals, even, in childhood, for the devil. The family Bible had in front a big frightening picture of the devil; but little Rachel felt sorry for him. She thought in the end he must be a “good devil,” sent to keep us on our toes.