Amy Carmichael was born December 16, 1867 in the village of Millisle on the north coast of Ireland. After a lifetime of service in India she died, the beloved Amma, with a family of thousands. She was 83. They covered her bed with flowers. The boys sang for an hour and a half. It was January 18, 1951. I was five years old.
She had suffered, and she had endured to the end. What kind of home had made this remarkable woman? How do you rear a child in a way that makes her free from self-indulgence and rugged in the face of suffering and ever-confident in the goodness of a chastising heavenly Father?
Elisabeth Elliot, in her new biography of Amy Carmichael, A Chance to Die, gives us a glimpse of that remarkable Irish home—"the toughness of Irish Presbyterians, the ruggedness bred by winters on that cold sea, and no-nonsense principles of child rearing."
There was no question in the minds of the Carmichael children as to what was expected of them. Black was black. White was white. Their parents' word could be trusted absolutely and when it was not obeyed there were consequences. Five kinds of punishment were used: Being stood in a corner with face to the wall, forbidden to go out to play, slapped, "pandied," and (worst of all) given Gregory powder.
Read the biography to find out about the Gregory powder. I'm interested in the "pandying." A pandy was a stroke with a thin, flat ebony ruler. The child was required to stand still, to hold out his hand at once and not pull it away, to make no fuss, and finally to say politely, "Thank you, Mother."
There is a great biblical principle behind this punishment of disobedience. Even Ted Koppel of ABC's "Nightline" can see it. Speaking to the graduates at Duke University he said that the reason "honor thy father and thy mother" was included in the first five commandments which deal with our relationship with God is that parents stand in the place of God for their children. We are charged by God to show our children what God is like.
"Behold the kindness and the severity of God!" (Romans 11:22). "The Lord disciplines him whom he loves...it is for discipline that you have to endure" (Hebrews 12:5-7).
Where did Amy Carmichael learn that the blasts and buffetings of her laborious life were the hand of a no-nonsense God of holiness and love? Where did she learn to say, "Thank you, Father" for the affliction of her hands? Where did she learn to pray,
Not relief from pain, not relief from the weariness that follows, not anything of that sort at all, is my chief need. Thou, O Lord my God, art my need—Thy courage, Thy patience, Thy fortitude. And very much I need a quickened gratitude for the countless helps given every day.
Elisabeth Elliot is right.
As the sternness of an Irish winter, with its gloom and wetness and icy winds puts apple cheeks on both old and young, so the sternness of Christian discipline put red blood—spiritual health—into the girl who could not have imagined then the buffetings she would be called on to endure.
What was Amy's own estimation of this awesome, God-like home? Long afterwards she wrote, "I don't think there could have been a happier child than I was."