by Gracia Burnham with Dean Merrill
Some of you might remember having run across Gracia's story some years back. From May 2001 to June 2002, she and her husband Martin were hostages of the Abu Sayyaf--the Filipino branch of Al Qaeda. The book is her account of that year, and a tribute to Martin, who was killed during the rescue. Gracia was here in Warsaw, speaking at my friend Lindsay's church--Lindsay invited me along to hear her speak and then, when I was standing at the book table browsing the book to decide whether I wanted it said, "I'll get you a copy of that!"
The prose is pretty much the horrible boiler plate that you'd expect from this sort of first person account. Very Reader's Digest. What can you expect when the account is put on dictaphone and then handed over to a professional page producer to cull down to manageable book size? But you don't read a book like this for the prose . . .
The Burnhams came out of standard Very-Conservative-Christian-America. She was a PK. He was a missionary kid. They met at Bible college. Back out to the mission field. The luncheon that I went to was very much standard BCW (Better Christian Woman) fare. Getting up to speak, Gracia was obviously at home in this setting and fluent in church speak . . . and yet. And yet, more than five years after her rescue she had obviously still not come fully to terms with her experience. It had marked her too deeply. And the book, written in the first few months after her rescue shows that even more. Even when she tries to shove all her feelings and reactions into standard conservative Christian boxes, things keep leaking out. There's too much, and it's too messy and too complicated. She's grown beyond her boxes. And here's the interesting thing. Maybe I'm just reading this in, but it sounds to me like she's really not sure she likes this growth or wants it. If her year as a hostage and the life of her husband--a truly horrible ordeal--was the price God extracted from her to grow her more into the woman in the image of Christ . . . well, couldn't God have put up with a little less Christ? Or, do I really want my God to be so big and so ruthless about turning me into exactly who he created me to be that he would use a method like that to get me there?
This has me thinking a lot more about the whole BCW thing. As I noted on my own blog, those posts of Erin's have been very influential on me this spring--they've given me language and a framework to explore and understand some things that I've been thinking about for a long time but only in a very muzzy manner. This book has collided with all that and produced some very interesting wreckage. But that's another post.
(Cross posted at The Unfinished Book Club)