Soon, it will be upon us: the season of peace and joy! Will you embrace it with your whole heart, finding a deep and beautiful sense of genuine peace and unblemished joy in the depths of your soul? Probably not. Unblemished joy is a rare commodity in a human race that is wounded by the effects of original sin. Our peace is disturbed and our joy is robbed when we hurt one another. It sounds simplistic, but it's true. We are wounded and so we wound one another.
We hurt each in other in a myriad of ways, yet few of us have a story of pain to tell like the one Imaculee Ilibagiza relates in her book Left to Tell. Imaculee Ilibagiza was born in Rwanda. Her life was dramatically transformed during the Rwandan genocide in 1994, when Imaculee and seven other women huddled silently together in a cramped bathroom of a local pastor’s house , in constant mortal danger, for three months. While Immaculee hid, most of her precious family was brutally murdered at the hands of those who also hunted her. Miraculously, she survived and lived to tell a compelling story of forgiveness and profound relationship with a living God. She lived to tell a story of faith overcoming fear and grace allowing complete forgiveness for even the most heinous assaults on both body and soul.
When we live in pain and in fear, God can seem very far away. For Immaculee, living in a hell of imprisonment in that cramped bathroom, God was near, indeed. He dwelt in her soul and He comforted her, even as she heard brutal murderers just outside the door of her hiding place. Jesus said, "Mountains are moved with faith, Immaculee, but if faith were easy, all the mountains would be gone. Trust in me. I will never leave you. Trust in me, and have no more fear. Trust in me, and I will save you. I shall put my cross upon this door, and they will not reach you. Trust in me and you shall live."
So dramatic and chilling is Immaculee's story that it reads like a parable, an exaggeration to make a point, a story like Christ's own stories. Yet her story is real. And her point is that we will not achieve a peace of heart or a joy of soul unless we can forgive even the unforgivable. A friend gave me the book a few weeks ago and asked me to read it and to let people know that Immaculee would be speaking November 3, 2007 at the Phases of Womanhood Conference. The very next day, a different friend, halfway across the country, recommended the book for an entirely different reason. It had to be a "God thing." I was supposed to read this book.
Even still, I admit that it took me a while to pick up the book. Who wants to read a firsthand account of the Rwandan holocaust? It sounded grim and dark and dirty. But this is a remarkable story of light and hope and grace. It really defies description.
After being a victim of the holocaust, losing her home and almost all of her family, Immaculee was at risk of becoming a victim again. Only this time, she was at risk of becoming the victim that many people of all walks of life become in the wake of all sorts of injury. She was at risk of becoming the victim of her own pain and bitterness. She was at risk of having all the energy of her life be negative energy. She was at risk of living a life that wasn't worthy of her survival in the hell of Rwanda. Instead she lives a triumphant life and she tells a triumphant story.
What is most remarkable to me is that Immaculee knows that she cannot forgive under her own power and she describes a specific incident of grace that allows her to forgive and to go on living after burying the dead. She sees clearly that her pain was inflicted by the devil who had entered the heart of her tormenter and who had "ruined his life like a cancer in his soul." God allows her to see evil for what it was and then God does something even more extraordinary. He allows her to forgive and so to be released from the hold that evil can have on the victims of cruelty-- the evil of bitterness and fear.Her faith--a very childlike faith--brings her to this point of grace and it is God alone who allows her to forgive. In her forgiveness, she is completed. She experiences and she lives in peace and joy.
Immaculee's ministry is clear and obvious--she was left to tell. Left to tell a story of a woman's simple faith and her Lord's abundant grace. I really think this is a story God wants women to hear. He has obviously moved mountains to allow this remarkable woman to tell it.
Nutmeg is hosting a Blogging Book Club and the first meeting is today! We're talking about Left to Tell.