Ruined: a book review

imageEvery summer it seems there is at least one book I’m still thinking about long after the windows are closed and the kids are back in school, a book I ponder and advise others to read. I’m not a fan of novels, but I do range far and wide, so we are talking about nonfiction from Destiny of the Republic to Wild Trees to The Soul of Shame and all the meaty, thrilling, deeply moving words in between. This year that memorable book is Ruined: a memoir by Ruth Everhart.

 

The author is a wife, a mother, a Presbyterian pastor, a blogger and a survivor of sexual violence. She and her roommates were held at gunpoint and raped during a long night of terror while seniors at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1978. As Reverend Everhart describes that night and its aftermath, you can feel her pain through the pages, a pain that goes far beyond the experience of her body to lacerations of the mind and spirit. Her journey includes an honest grappling with the sovereignty of God, a search for the true meaning of grace and a deep sense of compassion for all the lost and hurting souls in the world, especially those who feel they’ve been ruined.

 

While the book deals with heavy subjects, it is immensely readable – I finished its 300 pages in a day and a half. Everhart’s style is direct but intimate, taking the reader to the edge of evil, then pulling back to reveal an interior world straining toward light and love. It is a mark of her long healing that she has compassion not only for her sister sufferers but also for herself. “You are more than your sexual history. You are more than what happens to you. You are immensely valuable… Nothing is more washable than human skin. It is the most washable substance on earth. Thank God.” (p. 306)

 

I will recommend this book to my counseling clients, to others in ministry and to my friends. I will reflect upon it as I consider my own life journey and the scars I bear. I will think of it as I look around this vulnerable planet at all the things I might be tempted to believe are ruined. And I will return to it whenever I need the most powerful message Ms. Everhart offers her readers: hope.

 


 

Note: I did not receive a free copy of this book nor was I compensated in any way for this review. I first heard about it through the wonderful book blog/newsletter at Hearts & Minds books. Please check them out!

Both Ways? Making Difficult Decisions

DirectionsIn the classic movie, The Wizard of Oz, which has terrified and inspired multiple generations, the heroine is faced with an unexpected fork in the road. Her brainy friend, Scarecrow, tries to give her wise advice about her choices, arguing for both sides and concluding, “Some people do go both ways.” While no one can really go two ways at once, we are sometimes faced with gray areas in life, issues not directly addressed in Scripture, which leave us wishing we could. Knowing God doesn’t mean we know all the answers, but we can do better than Scarecrow, following these godly principles when making difficult decisions. 

 

It’s almost never wrong to wait.

 

In the presence of fire or blood, forget this advice! But in non-emergency situations, wisdom suggests we take time with our choices. Time provides room to think, pray, seek counsel and sleep on the problem. Although it might feel better to get it over with, it can also be a relief to give God a few days or a few weeks to speak into our circumstances. Things might look very different in the morning. It’s almost never wrong to wait on the Lord. (Psalm 37:7; Isaiah 30:18, Romans 12:12)

 

Err on the side of love.

 

People tend to err on the side of rules because rules give us certainty and control in an uncertain world. However, a close reading of the New Testament reveals that we are meant to move beyond rules in our maturity as Christians to places of the heart. This means greater responsibility as Jesus makes clear in the beatitudes and greater freedom as Paul points out in many of his letters. It means taking a hard look at our own motives and determining what comes from love rather than self-interest – love for God first (considering what pleases Him) and love for others second. God is pleased by things like generosity, forebearance, courage and personal holiness, but He is pleased by love most of all, thinking so much of that attribute as to put it first among many and to call Himself “love.” Love does not give us certainty or control, but it makes us beautiful in God’s eyes. (Matthew 7:12; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Colossians 3:14)

 

Give God the responsibility.

 

There may come a point when we have done all that we know to do, a deadline approaches and we can wait no longer. Then we have the security of laying our decision on God’s big shoulders, telling Him we are going to move in the direction which seems best but that we want Him to guide, redirect or even stop us if we are not following His footsteps. Giving Him the choice in this manner allows us to move forward in peace, with the confidence that He is in control. (Psalm 31:3,4; Proverbs 16:9; Mattnew 10:29-31)

 

Let your decision be worship.

 

In the end, we must do the thing which is worship. We are limited and fallen, and our choices are messy whenever the human heart is involved. Beware, especially, of making sacrifices for others. A sacrifice is a treasure offered to a god, not a man. Neither is it an economic exchange. If I end up angry, then my choice was not really worship, not given to God for whatever HE wanted to accomplish; instead, I was looking for something for myself, something I did not receive. So above all, when the choice has to be made, make it for worship. Make it to please Christ. And then don’t look back whatever the result, because your choice WILL accomplish its purpose: it will rise like incense before God’s throne, a pleasing aroma in Heaven. (Micah 6:8; Luke 12:29-31; Colossians 3:17)

 

When the pros and cons are confusing and wisdom argues both sides, give yourself time to make a choice, lean toward love, relinquish control to the Lord and worship God with your decision. Because, as much as we might want to, no one can really go both ways.


Questions:

  1. What decision are you making currently?  (If none, then think of a decision you made recently.)
  2. Might you benefit from waiting on the Lord for a time?
  3. What would it mean to “err on the side of love” for this decision?
  4. Have you laid this choice on God’s altar for whatever HE wants?  If not, can you do that right now?
  5. What would it mean to make this choice in such a way that the result mattered less than giving it to God for His purposes?

In the Aftermath of Trauma

Many people in my hometown of Orlando, Florida are feeling the effects of trauma right now.  Some of them are victims or relatives of victims of the two shootings which occurred here in recent days.  Others are first responders, police, fire or ambulance personnel who witnessed the carnage or its aftereffects.  But others are experiencing symptoms of trauma at more of a distance – those called upon to counsel victims or first responders, relatives and friends of those involved, maybe even the community as a whole.  We are struggling to wrap our brains around the idea that such massive evil and bloodshed could occur in our midst.  We are shocked, frightened, grieving, trying to “fix it” or to escape. 

 

Of course there have also been some lovely examples of heroes and helpers giving blood, offering prayers, providing food and comfort.  This reminds us of our role as God’s children, entering the scene of tragedy as Jesus did to bring the hope of redemption. We cannot not lose sight of God’s goodness, but, at the same time, we should not use that truth to dismiss others’ pain, jumping too quickly to a hope that many cannot yet feel.

 

Part of the healing that needs to be done is to allow ourselves and others to talk, to grieve, to feel our own feelings, whatever they may be.  Be kind to yourself and others right now.  We won’t always feel this way, but part of moving forward is living in the present, acknowledging whatever may be, telling the stories and validating the pain.  To that end, I offer the following handout which you can download, print or copy for others.

 

Trauma Recovery Handout

 

May you struggle well and heal in God’s time.