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“Finding Me” Book Review

“I love life… My son is the most precious to me. I will give up anything to be with my son at home where I belong… Life changes from good to bad… in a blink of an eye your whole life can change, so you should live life like it’s your last days on earth because you never know when tragedy might strike… Some people don’t have a family to turn to in time of need… I can’t wait for this nightmare to end so I can wake up and be me again.”
– Finding Me (page 165)

I’m sure most people have heard about the Cleveland kidnappings and the amazing rescue that happened in May 2013; when one of the girls, after having been held captive for over a decade, managed to get the attention of a neighbor while their captor was out of the house.

“Finding Me” is an eye-witness account as told by Michelle Knight, the first girl Ariel Castro lured into his house on Aug. 21, 2002, and held captive for 11 years. Let me just say, while this book is very well-written, it’s not for the faint of heart.

Her life wasn’t easy to begin with. Knight’s family had a very small home, where the amount of relatives living with them made for cramped space and no extra beds. After being sexually abused for years by one those relatives, she finally runs away to live under an overpass for a couple of months, only to be recognized while walking around town. Her dad, after getting the call, picked her up and dragged her back home that night.

Forced to endure more sexual abuse from that same relative, Knight eventually becomes pregnant and has her son, Joey. She loses custody of him 4 years later after the abusive relative got rough with her and broke Joey’s bone when he toddled over to help her. The government stepped in and placed him in foster care, saying her living situation wasn’t safe for the child.

Struggling to gain back custody,  Knight accepts a ride from her friend’s dad, Ariel Castro, who offers to take her to one of her court meetings. They make a stop at his house first, where he tells her that she could pick out one of his puppies to take back home to her son. Bringing her upstairs to where he claimed the puppies were, Castro attacks her and ties her up, rendering her completely helpless.

Words can’t fully describe the awfulness that Knight had to endure throughout the next several years: tied up in the basement with a motorcycle helmet on her head and duct tape on her mouth to keep her from being heard, forced to do the most disgusting sexual acts for “the dude’s” pleasure, starved because he either forgot to bring her food or refused to do so, raped daily, beaten until she aborted her child when she got pregnant… 5 times.

In the book, Knight never refers to Castro by his real name once she starts talking about her kidnapping. She calls him “the dude,” which, in a way, strips him of his humanity for readers – presenting him as a monster who is driven by a desire for sex and his twisted fantasies.

Knight said that “the dude” also kidnapped Amanda Berry on April 21, 2003, and Gina DeJesus on April 2, 2004, bringing them together to complete his “family,” as he called it. All three girls had some connection to Castro’s daughter.

Throughout the book, Knight keeps mentioning how many times “the dude” told her that she was worthless, that no one was bothering to look for her because they didn’t care, that she was ugly and unloved. I can’t even begin to imagine what that would do to me, having to hear that day after day, week after week for years.

“I truly believe no one cares for me. I feel like I’m dying in here. Sometimes I feel powerless to the pain and destruction. I find myself paralyzed. I’m going out of my mind thinking about if I’ll ever get home to see my lil’ angel. I’m sitting in a prison with no windows and waiting for someone to come rescue me. I’m lying here cold, shivering, but I am still not totally broken.” – Finding Me (page 176)

Yet, there is one thing that keeps her going and gives her the strength she needs to keep going: her son, Joey.

“To My Son: You are my shining star, you are the reason I look forward to a new day. 
You’ll always be in my heart, and that’s where you’ll always stay. You light the way for me, 
the day gets hard and I think of you and how we will be together forever. 
Never apart and one day have a fresh new start with you, because you are my hope to survive.” 
– Finding Me (page 179)

Finally, after a decade of abuse, on May 6, 2013, Berry manages to get the attention of a neighbor by pushing the chain-bolted front door out as far as it would go and sticking her arm out, screaming for help.

The police came, broke down the front door and found Knight and DeJesus in the upstairs room. They were brought out to the ambulances to be checked and taken to the hospital. Castro was arrested shortly after and brought to court, where he was charged with 937 counts of kidnapping, rape and aggravated murder. He was sentenced to life in prison and was later found dead in his cell on Sept. 3, 2013.

Knight says that having her freedom back is still kind of surreal. She doesn’t downplay what she went through, but she also says that she won’t let it define her:

“The horrors I survived don’t have to define me – and with God’s help I’m not going to let them. One day at a time, one breath at a time, I am choosing to move forward. After crawling my way out of a dark bedroom and into a brand new life, that’s the best gift I can give myself.” 
– Finding Me (page 240)

After being released from the hospital and getting her own apartment, Knight is
currently working to touch other people’s lives and give back to her community. She says that she wants to be a voice for the girls who are still in captivity and wants to give them and their families hope.

“When I was on my last breath in that house, God kept me alive for some reason. I believe the reason is so I can help others who have been in my situation. When I’m feeling lost, that’s the purpose I hold onto. Becoming a voice for those who can’t speak, sharing love with other people around me – that’s the only way I’ve been able to find myself again.” 
– Finding Me (page 249 )

I personally enjoyed getting a first-hand account of what happened behind those doors and, while it was really hard to read without getting teary-eyed, it brings to light how she was able to survive that dark time.

I highly recommend this well-written, well-thought-out book to those who are looking for a real, down-to-earth account that provides all the facts and an underlying message of hope, or those who, like me, enjoy reading/hearing other people’s stories, getting into their heads and discovering how they experience things, what they think and how they choose to be defined by the circumstances they find themselves in.

I mean, everyone has a story to tell.

If you want to get a copy of the book for yourself, visit Amazon.com or any other store or online site that carries it.

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Love covers a multitude of sins!

There may be time where it feels like you’ve done something so terrible that there’s no way you can make it up to God. You’ve fallen into the trap of sin over and over again, it seems impossible to approach the throne of grace and ask for forgiveness one more time. You’re left with this feeling of being unclean and unworthy of the love that God is holding out for you.

I know that there have been many times in my life where I kept putting off asking God for forgiveness because I was afraid. Afraid of rejection, afraid of coming face to face with my sin, afraid of seeing the hurt in my Father’s eyes.

But the minute I slink into the throne room (figuratively of course), stumbling under the heavy burden of guilt, I immediately feel the power and glory of His presence. I fall to my knees in awe and shame, afraid to look up, afraid of what I might see.

Then I hear Him say “My child, I love you and nothing can ever change that. Give me your burden and let me fill you with My grace and love, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light. I’ll cast your sins as far as the east is from the west, washing you white as snow. For you are Mine and no sin can ever snatch you out of My hand.”

A feeling of peace and love overwhelms me. Tears streaming down my face, I feel the weight lift off my shoulders and am wrapped up in a huge hug by the Father who would never disown me.

Each time I enter God’s presence, I come away wondering why I hadn’t done it sooner. He’s so full of love and compassion and He understands us completely!

That’s the wonder of grace. We don’t have to earn it, per say. It’s a gift!

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Ephesians 2:8-9

As it says in 1 Peter 4:8 –

“Above all, love each other deeply, for love covers a multitude of sins.”

This unconditional love was ultimately demonstrated at the cross.

One of my Facebook friends had posted an excerpt from the book “When God Weeps” by
Joni Eareckson Tada and Steve Estes. It gives such a graphic visual of what happened at the cross that fateful day and what exactly our Savior had to go through in order to offer us the free gift of salvation:

The face that Moses had begged to see—was forbidden to see—was slapped bloody (Exodus 33:19-20).
The thorns that God had sent to curse the earth’s rebellion now twisted around his own brow…
“On your back with you!” One raises a mallet to sink in the spike.
But the soldier’s heart must continue pumping as he readies the prisoner’s wrist.
Someone must sustain the soldier’s life minute by minute, for no man has this power on his own.
Who supplies breath to his lungs? Who gives energy to his cells? Who holds his molecules together?
Only by the Son do “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).
The victim wills that the solider live on—he grants the warriors continued existence.
The man swings.
As the man swings, the Son recalls how he and the Father first designed the medial nerve of the human forearm—the sensations it would be capable of.
The design proves flawless—the nerves perform exquisitely. “Up you go!”
They lift the cross.
God is on display in his underwear and can scarcely breathe.
But these pains are a mere warm-up to his other and growing dread. He begins to feel a foreign sensation. Somewhere during this day an unearthly foul odor began to waft, not around his nose, but his heart. He feels dirty. Human wickedness starts to crawl upon his spotless being—the living excrement from our souls. The apple of his Father’s eye turns brown with rot.
His Father! He must face his Father like this! From heaven the Father now rouses himself like a lion disturbed, shakes his mane, and roars against the shriveling remnant of a man hanging on a cross. Never has the Son seen the Father look at him so, never felt even the least of his hot breath. But the roar shakes the unseen world and darkens the visible sky. The Son does not recognize these eyes.
“Son of Man! Why have you behaved so? You have cheated, lusted, stolen, gossiped—murdered, envied, hated, lied. You have cursed, robbed overspent, overeaten—fornicated, disobeyed, embezzled, and blasphemed. Oh, the duties you have shirked, the children you have abandoned! Who has ever so ignored the poor, so played the coward, so belittled my name? Have you ever held your razor tongue? What a self-righteous, pitiful drunk—you, who molest young boys, peddle killer drugs, travel in cliques, and mock your parents. Who gave you the boldness to rig elections, foment revolutions, torture animals, and worship demons? Does the list never end! Splitting families, raping virgins, acting smugly, playing the pimp—buying politicians, practicing exhortation, filming pornography, accepting bribes. You have burned down buildings, perfected terrorist tactics, founded false religions, traded in slaves—relishing each morsel and bragging about it all. I hate, loathe these things in you! Disgust for everything about you consumes me! Can you not feel my wrath?”
Of course, the Son is innocent. He is blamelessness itself. The Father knows this.
But the divine pair have an agreement, and the unthinkable must now take place.
Jesus will be treated as if personally responsible for every sin ever committed.
The Father watches as his heart’s treasure, the mirror-image of himself,
sinks drowning into raw, liquid sin. Jehovah’s stored rage against humankind from every century
explodes in a single direction.
“Father! Father! Why have you forsaken me?!”
But heaven stops its ears. The Son stares up at the One who cannot,
who will not,
reach down or reply.
The Trinity had planned it. The Son endured it. The Spirit enabled him.
The Father rejected the Son whom he loved. Jesus, the God-man from Nazareth, perished.
The Father accepted his sacrifice for sin and was satisfied. The Rescue was accomplished.
Joni Eareckson Tada and Steve Estes, “When God Weeps.”

The bottom line is this. No matter what you’ve done, no matter what you’ve been through, Jesus paid it all. He went to the cross for your sins. Not just the small ones or the big, life-changing ones, but ALL sins. He took them upon Himself and paid the price so that we could be washed clean and live eternally.

Satan wants us to believe that we’re unworthy, that we’re too dirty for God to even bother with.

That’s not true at all!

Remember…

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill and to destroy.
I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
John 10:10.

Praise Him!

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For God so loved

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through Him.”

I’m pretty sure a majority of Christians (and even some none Christians) today could rattle that off no problem because it’s one of the more well-known Bible verses.

But what does it really mean?

The main idea is obvious – that we have an opportunity for eternal life through Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection – but there’s more.

Read that first sentence again. Now break it up and read to the first comma. What do you notice?

“For God so LOVED the world that He gave His ONE and ONLY Son,”

Did you catch it that time?

The God of the universe chose to send His only Son down to earth to save us.

Jesus willingly came down to be that perfect sacrifice for our sins.

Not because they had to, but because of the unconditional, everlasting love that they have for us, a broken creation.

This is one of the reasons why the gospel of John is my favorite out of the four. He focuses on the fact that it was love that drove Christ to become human, to dwell among us for 30-odd years, to perform miraculous signs, to demonstrate what it means to “live like Christ” and then to allow Himself to be hung on a cross for crimes He never committed.

Our crimes.

What it must’ve been like to have witnessed all of that?

In his gospel, John gives us a chance to experience what he saw, felt and thought during his time with the Lord and it seems like the thing that impacted him the most was the love that was continually pouring out of Christ.

There was never any hint of hate or selfishness, only love and selflessness.

John had the privilege to develop a close relationship with the Lord by being a part of The Twelve Disciples. He also was a part of the “inner three” with Peter and James (as seen in Mark 5:37, 9:2-13, 13:3 and 14:33), which means that he was able to spend time with Him in a more intimate setting.

Have you ever noticed that throughout the entire book of John, the author never refers to himself by name? There’s a certain phrase he uses whenever he talks about himself:

“The disciple whom Jesus loved”

The love Christ demonstrated during His ministry here on earth had become a personalized love for John and this phrase illustrates how much it had impacted him.

One of my favorite examples of the relationship between Jesus and John is found in John 13:21-25

“After He had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray Me.’ His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them He meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to Him. 

Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said ‘Ask Him which one He means.’
Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?'”

John was comfortable enough to lean back against our Lord and Savior (he heard God’s heartbeat!) and that just blows me away.

Yet, that’s exactly the kind of relationship that God longs to have with His children. A close, loving relationship where we feel comfortable enough to talk with Him about the difficult things as well as rejoice in the happy things in life.

I love how Jesus sums up the kind of relationship He wants to have with us in John 17:20-26 (one of my favorite passages)

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message,
that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You.

May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.
I have given them the glory that You gave me,
that they may be one as We are one: 
I in them and You in Me.
May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me
and have loved them even as You have loved Me.
Father I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am, and to see My glory,
the glory You have given Me because You loved Me before the creation of the world.
Righteous Father, though the world does not know You, I know You, and they know that You have sent Me.
I have made You known to them and will continue to make You known

in order that the love You have for Me may be in them and that I, Myself, may be in them.”

Need I say more? 🙂

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