Earlier this week, I received one of the best blessings of the year: my boss (Tammy Schultz) walked into work with a copy of her book, Beyond Desolate. I have had the privilege of helping her here and there with it over the past two years. My first encounter with this book involved margins, spacing, etc. I remember reading a paragraph here and there as I formatted the chapters. Some of the stories of sexual abuse made me want to weep, but I did not yet feel comfortable with tears at that stage in my life. It made me wonder: WHY do such things happen?
My next encounter with Beyond Desolate came more than a year later, when I had a few months of marriage under my belt. Coming at this book from a (mostly) healthy sexual perspective changed my view of this book. While switching footnotes for endnotes and MLA citations for APA ones, I read some of the more joyful sections. These sections made me realize while we may never understand the horrible, traumatizing events of this fallen world, we do not necessarily have to face them alone. Luckily for me, I have a loving husband, caring friends, and an all-comforting God to face the bad and good events of my life. For the people mentioned in this book and those who empathize with the stories told, I can only hope and pray they have people in their lives who will love them and face their bad and good events with them.
A few months ago, Tammy asked me to read this book from front to back to look for grammar and typing errors. For two weeks, this book gripped me. I have never felt more inspired and raw by another book. This book does not expect its readers to “have it all together” or react as the (non-existant) perfect Christian should. I believe everyone should read this book because trauma–not always in the form of sexual abuse–exists everywhere. Each of us has a friend struggling with terrible childhood memories, eating disorders, cutting, mental illness and/or grief. We will all experience our own trauma as well. It hits us from nowhere, sneaks up on us in our joyful moments and leaves us to pick up the pieces of the aftermath.
While my journey with this book has lasted for two years, the authors have worked on Beyond Desolate for the past five years. A conversation on a plane between two friends (co-authors Tammy Schultz and Hannah Estabrook) has turned into a book they hope will help the survivors/victims of sexual abuse, their families, their friends and their therapists. They share their own journeys of healing from sexual abuse, research and experience as clinical mental health counselors and Christians.
I have included some of my favorite quotes from reading the book below:
- The sullied story of an Israeli princess who was raped would begin the tapestry of Beyond Desolate and threads of her narrative would be interwoven throughout its fabric. (2)
- Tamar was silenced. We are breaking her silence. (16)
- No two survivors are exactly alike. Diversity of abuse ensures diversity of aftermath effects of abuse. (20)
- We grapple with the question why me? that looms with traumatic memories. (28)
- In many Muslim cultures around the world a sexually abused girl is judged as guilty of having sex outside of marriage and severely penalized. (57)
- The lifeblood of betrayal is the victim doesn’t see it coming, like an unannounced tornado touches down before unsuspecting city-dwellers have the chance to take cover. (63)
- Equally damaging is the betrayal committed by the bystander, the non-offending parent or teacher who knows about the abuse and does nothing. (63-4)
- The mirror is a terrible lover, because it almost never tells us that we’re ok. It almost always shouts at us that we are not enough, that we are a problem, that we could never be loved looking like that. (109)
- Honesty is of utmost importance and not a mere step to be checked off a list. (126)
- Hope is a dangerous thing. (142)
- Joy remembers the searing pain of prison, acid-like words,and soul-bruising blows by abusers, do not equal an uncaring God. (249)
- Out of the devastating rubble and ashes, God loves to take the shattered and make us strong. (269)