How about another “Call the Midwives” tale?
Jane’s story emerges from the second book (“Shadows of the Workhouse”) by midwife Jennifer Worth on which the TV series was based. Like the one about Mrs. Jenkins, it is unspeakably awful…at least, in the beginning.
Illegitimate daughter of an aristocrat and a housemaid, Jane was sent to the workhouse as a small child, not knowing who her parents were. In her innocence, she fixated on the benefactor of the workhouse as her “Daddy”—until the idea was beaten out of her by a flogging from the workhouse master when she was only 8 years old. The rejection and cruelty continued until she was released at 14, leaving her a crushed, broken creature, desperately anxious to please but not knowing how, terrified of everything, cringing like a beaten dog.
Fired from one housekeeping job after another, she washed up at Nonnatus House, where the compassionate nuns treated her kindly and gave her simple jobs to do. By the time Jennifer met her, she was in her 40’s but her drab old clothes, her stooped walk and her fear-filled manner made her seem much older. So frightened was she about making a mistake that it took her hours to do the easiest of jobs. After the crotchety cook barked her at for not cutting up potatoes correctly, they found Jane cowering against the wall, trembling and sobbing, “I’m so sorry; I’m so sorry.”
Jane’s story was so depressing and devoid of hope that I had to set the book aside for a while.
Last night, however, I picked it up again, only to discover…a miracle!
For into Jane’s lonely, miserable life came a man. And not just any man. He was a middle-aged missionary-pastor in England on leave from Africa. Uncomfortable at his home, where his elderly aristocratic father took continual jabs at his son’s career, he had nowhere to stay…until he came to Nonnatus House to study their work among London’s poor. Sister Julienne, the wise administrator, gave Jane the task of touring the missionary around their district. Jane panicked, as usual, but when Sister ordered, she obeyed, trembling…only to find the missionary gentle and kind, accepting of her awkwardness.
Miraculously, a tiny spark kindled between these two lonely, outcast souls.
Seeing it, Sister Julienne sent Jennifer out to get Jane a decent haircut and some nice clothes, which she’d never had before. The spark bloomed into love; light began to lift Jane’s downcast face.
The missionary then took the bold step of inviting Jane to go with him for a final visit to his difficult father. When the rude old man called her “a rawboned horse,” the missionary was insulted, but she just laughed and said she’d been called worse, adding “Just be thankful that you have a father, at all, dear.” Sure enough, she won over the father as she had the son.
They were married shortly after.
“I have never seen a woman so changed,” writes Jennifer. “She was tall and regal, her eyes were smiling and calm confidence seemed to spring from deep within her. Pippin (her husband) hardly took his eyes off her, and always referred to her as ‘my dear wife’, or ‘my beloved Jane.’”
After a celebration at Nonnatus House, the couple returned to his mission in Africa.
I wanted to cheer out loud.
Ah, the miraculous power of love—but not just any love. It was love that accepted Jane just as she was, without condition, that glimpsed the woman she was meant to be and gently, patiently invited her out of hiding.
Pippin’s was a love like God’s, commissioned, blessed and endorsed by Him to rescue one of His broken ones—someone the world had cast away as hopeless.
We are all broken in some way, whether it is obvious or not. That is the price of living in this sin-haunted planet. But God came to suffer for us and with us, so His love could heal us and set us free.
His love is the perfect love John writes about (John 10:18). All we need to do is believe and receive it. Love can heal us, restore us and cast out all our fear.
As Pippin’s did for Jane.
(Original drawing by Hannah Ohman, February 2018)