Forgiveness Not Optional: Surprised by the Healer {Book Review}

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I am not exactly sure how to even begin this review. 
I signed up for the Surprised by the Healer launch team a bit blind. I knew very little about the ministry-but it was an opportunity to work with a new book and hopefully be of good use to the PR team.

That is NOT what happened.

After researching a little bit about the Authentic Intimacy ministry, I was a little bummed. I didn't know if I was going to really be moved by this book. "Embracing Hope for Your Broken Story" didn't sound like something that I needed to experience right now. Me and Jesus are on pretty good terms, right? My marriage is pretty darn good too.

But then I read Marian's story, and old wounds that had been covered with cheap band-aids were ripped wide open-and they hurt. 

I sat reading her painful testimony in complete shock with a touch of horror.

"Has someone read my journal? Does this woman know me? How can she have the same exact story as me?" I wondered.

You see, I am a Marian. Although she didn't become a Christian until her 20's, I've been a Christian since age 6. But her hurts? The lies that she tucked away in her heart after every guy? The promiscuity. The brokenness. The shame. 

That's my testimony too.

I can tell you about the abuse when I was a teen. The moment that took away the one thing I held so dear. The one thing that gave me value (in my head). I can talk to you about the miscarriage of my first baby from a guy in high school who said "I'll make you take care of it".  I could also share about the physically abusive college boyfriend who made sure I always knew that there were prettier/thinner/smarter girls than me. How about the solider fiancee whom I found out was still married and was also sleeping with someone else for at least half of our relationship?

All of these men contributed to "truths" I believed about myself. They are what lead to the heavy drinking. The drugs. The men. 

Then walks in my own Ron Weasley. My sweet red-head who waited 21 years for me. He showed up in my life completely pure and with 0 extra baggage. No former girlfriends. No heartache. Not even a kiss to tell about. Me? Well, he got some seriously broken merchandise. And even when I unloaded all of my shame on him within a month of dating-he looked at my through sad eyes and said, "I'm not going anywhere."

All of the issues Marian discussed-I felt them too. Deeply. The unworthiness, the inability to give my full self, and let's not forget the complete disgust with anything and everything that happened in the bedroom.

She nailed is when she said- 

"I had rejected sex in my marriage because it seemed like a cheap replacement for what I really desired-intimacy." (page 27)

I put my husband through a lot, y'all. I can't begin to tell you the vastness of it. There were times I would push him so hard just because I wanted him to hate me. It's what I felt I deserved. 

"As a young woman, I had learned and believed that I was undesirable. I had a long list of reasons to back this up. I knew that parts of me would be repulsive to God and to my husband. But God was telling me that He wanted me to live Him with my whole self, not just the undamaged parts." (page 27)


I've lived this for most of my life and never had an adjective to describe myself more than "DAMAGED". 

Even after having children, my "reality" seemed to only get worse. Sixty extra pounds, a soft tummy, and a whole lotta stretch marks just added more broken parts (or what I thought) to the mix. How could anyone love me? How can my husband even look at me? Why would he ever want to be intimate with me?

Then I turned the page.

"God desires me. I am desirable." (page 28)

Nothing could have prepared me for what my heart experienced at that moment. 

You see, I've been working on these issues for a few years. I've been working on seeing myself the way God does. I've also been working on giving myself fully to my husband. 

But this? Oh no. I had not EVER considered myself desirable

It was in that moment that I knew exactly why I had been picked for the launch team. God knew I needed to realize that I had not truly dealt with these issues and that the lies had just been pushed into a tiny corner of my soul, and laid dormant. Who knows when such a disease could decide to wake up.

With each chapter and testimony of brokenness that is shared in Surprised by the Healer, there is not just a glimmer, but a spotlight example of hope. And not just any hope. Not just the once-a-week-hope that "Jesus is awesome!" but the hope that- "HE.WANTS.YOU." kind of hope. I know that this book has earned a permanent space in my library for that very reason. I know it'll be THAT kind of book to pull out when I need to truly check myself. It's also a great gift for anyone who has gone through any kind of abuse, abortions, unfaithfulness, pornography, divorce, etc. It touches on all of those issues and more.

Marian is not the only woman who shares her story of redemption, there are NINE wonderful women who's stories are sure to break your heart AND make you sing His praises! With each chapter, I found out something more about myself. I also found words to meditate on for my own healing.

"I realized that forgiveness was not optional; it was commanded by a loving God who knew that the sin of unforgiveness would destroy me. God's plan was for me to forgive others in the same way He had forgiven me. It was the simple, yet most difficult, gospel truth." (page 126)

I honestly think every woman should read this. It pulled and tugged and even ripped my comfort zone apart. I could almost hear the "Killing Me Softly" song in the background. Reading this made me feel exposed. It also taught me to stop assuming that smiling faces don't hide deep trauma. We all have a story. We all have struggles. We also are wanted, where we are, in the middle of the muck, by the King of Kings!

I'm very thankful for Linda Dillow and Dr. Juli Slattery for putting together such a treasure. And the ladies that bared their souls? They are my new heroes. They exemplify bravery and I'm honored to have had a part in promoting their testimonies. 

*I was given this Advanced Review Copy free in return for my honest review. Opinions are 100%  my own, as always.*

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