Are you made of glass?

I know that sounds like a ludicrous question, but there was a period in European history when individuals believed they had glass bodies or glass organs. I’m not just referring to an isolated case, some unknown nobody tucked away in an asylum. We’re talking nobility with a glass delusion:

  • 012120-25-History-Charles-VI-France-1024x683King Charles VI of France was a kid (age 11) when he became king. He was smart, charismatic, and well loved. He actually did much good for France … until he lost touch with reality and believed his body was made of glass. What would you do if you were glass? Charles would lie motionless for hours wrapped in blankets—sort of a 14th-century version of a couch potato. Must’ve been boring in the days before Netflix.
  • Princess Alexandra Amelie of Bavaria was convinced that she had swallowed a full-sized grand piano made of glass when she was young. She was afraid of any movement or being bumped. She tiptoed and walked sideways in her effort to avoid contact with anything.
  • Nicole du Plessis of France (related to Cardinal Richelieu) was convinced he had a glass rear end, so he kept a pillow strapped to his backside so he could sit safely.

Throughout the Middle Ages and even into the 17th century, history records several people with this psychological disorder. Interestingly, these cases were chiefly among those of nobility. (Of course, “lesser” people could have suffered from this, but no one recorded the events of the everyday common person.)

The big question is: why? I’ve never been tempted once to see myself as glass, not even plexiglass from Home Depot. But during the Middle Ages, glass was a precious commodity, and it would be easily found in places of importance like a royal palace. So here was a commodity associated with the royals that was fragile. Because glass could easily shatter, this malady was a way of expressing how vulnerable they felt. They were people in high, public positions. They were constantly on view and they felt fragile and exposed—like a piece of glass.

Oh, that makes perfect sense now!

vase-5309392_1280Well, that’s one theory, but it doesn’t make them normal. These were people still in need of a good dose of counseling. Counseling would’ve been better than one doctor’s cure. In Spain, an unnamed glass vase … er, man was locked in a room full of straw. The room was set on fire, and the man ran to the door, banging and begging to be let out. The doctor forced him to see that, if he was a glass vase, all that banging would’ve shattered him [Source]. While he was cured, the American Medical Association generally frowns on fires set in locked rooms.

It’s easy to make jokes about such a disorder, but these were real people living in fear. If the theory of their condition holds true, these were people in good positions, even enviable positions, but they totally lacked confidence and any sense of security.

You don’t have to have a glass body to feel vulnerable and insecure. Waaaay too many of us struggle with those feelings. For the Christ-follower, though, feelings of insecurity are unnecessary. You may feel insecure, but no one is more secure than a child of God. God has made the greatest sacrifice for you and given you the greatest thing He could: His Son Jesus Christ. Since God has done that for you out of His love and grace, there’s nothing else He will withhold from you. He did this to bring you into a relationship with Him, and He will let nothing sever that relationship. You truly are secure in Christ—and You are secure for eternity!

“Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:35,37-39).

Let’s get out there and live boldly—and live boldly for Christ. Go ahead. You won’t shatter.

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