What if you did not have to be so afraid?
With that simple yet intriguing question, a truly remarkable story begins to unfold in the pages of “Fear to Freedom.” I had the wonderful privilege of sitting down in person with author Rosemary Trible to talk about the book. Two hours later, I left the interview convinced there's not a corner of the globe that this book won't find its way into, and that everyone who reads this book will be positively impacted by its profound message.
In 1975, as a young new wife with her own local television talk show and a husband on the verge of a political career, Rosemary was viciously raped at gunpoint. A man whose face she never saw had brutally violated her body and her life, and as she says, stolen her joy. “Fear to Freedom” is her amazing story of getting that joy back – and then some.
To every person, man or woman, who has suffered the violation of sexual assault or abuse, Rosemary extends a lifeline of hope and healing. As we talked about the darkness she walked through and the barrage of negative emotions she fought with, she told me how she felt like a big, ugly cracked pot with R-A-P-E on it. Then she had an image of God placing His light down inside, and He asked her, “Where does the light shine through?” Through the cracks, of course! “That's how I want you to shine for Me,” He said.
Her goal in “Fear to Freedom” is to let each of us know – especially those who feel like damaged goods – it's okay that we're cracked! God repairs what is broken, and brings new life out of the ashes.
Don't be too quick to assume this book is only relevant to those who've suffered sexual assault. That would be a big mistake. This is not a book about rape; this is an unshakable testimony to the life-changing power of forgiveness, and the awesomeness of God's love.
If that sounds canned or phony to you, listen again. Forgiveness is talked about a lot these days from psychologists and counselors and researchers and even celebrities. It's acquired an almost chic quality in our culture. But the world's brand of forgiveness doesn't even come close to the forgiveness offered to each of us by God, through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, and it doesn't always equal the forgiveness we are called to give one another.
I was amazed as I read Rosemary's account of how she made the courageous decision to forgive her attacker. I was stopped in my tracks by what she did next. She did not simply “release him” for her own sake and remain indifferent to him. Most people would call that far more than anyone should expect of her, but on her knees before the Lord, she asked for the unthinkable – eternity with the man who'd terrorized her.
She prayed, “Lord, I forgive the man who raped me. And I will pray every day for the rest of my life that someone will tell him about Jesus and that I'll spend eternity with him.” She took a step beyond mere release into love – love for her enemy! She made her own great sacrifice of selfless love for the very person who rightfully deserved her contempt and condemnation. In doing so, she realized as never before that “forgiveness is the greatest power on earth next to love.” She said to me, “When you pray for someone every day, you just can't hate them anymore.”
The highlight of the book is Rosemary's astonishing description of what she calls her “near-life experience” after a strange car accident. While in a coma-like state, unable to speak or move at all, Rosemary was allowed to see beyond the veil. Though she warns that words are inadequate to describe what she experienced, she tells over and over again of the unspeakable love and peace that enveloped her, the light that warmed her, the absolute calm and joy that overtook her.
After being greeted and embraced by friends who had died, she suddenly found herself face to face with someone she did not recognize. “Who are you?” she asked. He replied, “I am the man who raped you. I would not be here except you forgave me and prayed that someone would tell me about Jesus and I would be set free.”
Rosemary writes that this heavenly meeting was “a great gift to my life. To be face to face with the man who had stolen my joy, and see him now at peace with God and forgiven of his past. What a merciful God to answer my prayer.”
What she learned about forgiveness is for every one of us. Next to love, forgiveness is the greatest power on earth. When we forgive, the power of God is loosed in the life of our offender, to work eternal transformations. We not only set ourselves free, but we free the one who hurt us to be changed by the force of God's perfect love. God desires that not one soul be lost, but that every soul, every soul, be reconciled to Him through Jesus. He will stop at nothing, and go to the ends of the earth to win back even the most hardened soul.
When was the last time you prayed for the good of your enemy? I think back to times I have prayed for someone who hurt me deeply or hurt someone I love, and I'm not sure I was all that interested in that person's good. I was mainly concerned with “freeing” myself from the anger I felt and getting a pat on the back for being so gracious toward a real schmuck. Which means I have missed the point of forgiveness and love entirely.
Rosemary has truly lived God's command to love your enemy, and she now radiates the light of Christ. I asked her near the end of our time together, “If you could edit your life so that the rape never happened, but without the assurance that you'd be the woman you are today, would you do it?” With barely a moment's thought, she smiled and shook her head and said, “No, I wouldn't.”
Hers is a real-life account of God's miraculous exchange of beauty for ashes. It's through those ashes, she told me, that God has taught her the power of forgiveness and how immensely great is His love for each of us. Her mission in life is to tell people about that love and say to every person who is broken and trapped by fear, “You can be free again. You can have joy again! You are loved and wanted no matter what you've done or what's been done to you.”
One thing's for certain – the cracks in her pot no longer spell r-a-p-e, but H-O-P-E. She simply shines with hope.
To order your copy of this marvelous book, visit the Fear to Freedom website (www.feartofreedomjourney.com).