My World Was Wrecked Once

Vining, Elizabeth Gray

  • Elizabeth Vining describes how she used to depend on human love for meaning and satisfaction till her husband was killed in an automobile accident, and then she came to believe in God's love and the efficacy of prayer. This episode is a rebroadcast of an earlier airing.
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And now, This I Believe. We bring you an earlier broadcast, which is being repeated because of the special interest it aroused. Here is Edward R. Murrow as he first introduced the guest.
This I Believe. Elizabeth Gray Vining is a Bryn Mawr educated Philadelphia Quaker who, in nineteen-forty-six, was chosen to become tutor to the crown prince of Japan. The story of her experiences there is contained in her bestselling book “Windows for the Crown Prince.” These are Elizabeth Vining’s beliefs behind that story.
When I was young, I thought that beauty and courage and human love were the enduring values by which I could live. The beauty of nature, of an apple-green sky in a December twilight, of sun shafts through trees, of distant mountains, the beauty of words in poetry or fine prose, fed my spirit. Courage, even a little of it, enabled me to face the disappointments that come to all young writers and to weather the disasters of the Great Depression. Human love meant for me a circle of friends and family and, above all, my brilliant and adored husband, Morgan Vining.
In 1933 he was killed in an automobile accident and I was seriously injured myself. I had nine weeks in bed to contemplate the wreckage of my world. I realized then that beauty and courage and human love, though indispensable, were not enough. During a long winter I sought desperately for the rock of truth on which to build my life anew and found it in the silent worship of the Quaker meeting. In discovering there the love of God, I found the love of neighbor infinitely widened and deepened. The realization that there is a spark of the divine in every human soul draws together people of all races, all creeds, all nations, all classes. It is the real reason why war is evil, and social injustice unendurable, why religion is incomplete without service.
I am a Christian, but I believe that all religions are pathways to God and become closer to one another as they mount nearer to Him. As William Penn said, ‘The humble, meek, merciful, just, pious, and devout souls are everywhere of one religion; and when death has taken off the mask, they will know one another, though the divers liveries they wear here make them strangers.”
I have come to understand that we see only a small part of the whole pattern of existence. Sorrow and suffering give opportunities for growth. Disappointment often opens doors to wider fields. The tragedy of death, as someone wiser than I has said, is separation, but even separation may not be permanent.
The sense of continuing companionship with those who have gone beyond the horizon which comes to me occasionally makes me confident that someday we shall see beyond the mystery which now we must accept.
I believe in the power of prayer. I know something of this power through having been on the receiving end. After the war I was asked to be the tutor to the Crown Prince of Japan. In this fascinating but delicate and sometimes difficult work, situations arose in which I had no precedent to follow, no rules that I could consult. I had to depend more than I had ever done before on intuition. I used to hear again and again of people who were praying for me in my work; a group of children in England, strangers all over the United States and Japan, friends at home.
More than once I found myself lifted up and carried over the critical point, and it may well be that the prayers of unknown people in far places were helping me in ways I could not know. We understand very little about this power of prayer, and it is possible to misuse it even with the highest motives. I think that I can only ask that God’s will be done in regard to any situation and that people whom I want to help may come to seek Him and know His love and truth directly. But by the very act of asking, if I do it sincerely and without reserve, perhaps I can open myself as a channel for God’s healing action.
That was a repeat of an earlier broadcast by Elizabeth Gray Vining. Her balanced belief may be useful not only to the future ruler of Japan but to the rest of us in everyday living.