I'm going to start using Fridays as days to introduce you to life-changing books you MUST read by some of the most amazing people on the planet. Not every Friday, but I'll do my best.
Mary DeMuth is going to kick us off with her new non-fiction release, Thin Places: A Memoir. I had the privilege to endorse this book and one of the things I said is about it is, "I'm not the same after reading this book." Mary writes about hard issues of abuse she experienced in her childhood. It's not something many people want to deal with. But not only has she dealt with it, she's used her story to bring healing into the lives of others. I sat down with her to ask a few questions about her life and why she wrote the Thin Places. You can click here to jump right in and read the first chapter.
Childhood sexual abuse at five, Parents with addictions, Feelings of being unwanted, An unsafe home, neglect, death of a parent, lonliness, suicidal thoughts and three divorces.
It's hard to write all that out and not feel bad for little me. But even in the recounting, I’ve been able to see the thin places in my life, those snatches of moments where God came near. That’s the message and hope of Thin Places, being able to see the nearness of God amidst heartache.
What compelled you to write Thin Places?
I felt sufficiently healed from my past, which had been a long, long journey. And in that healing, I knew I had the perspective I needed to be able to communicate my story with hope. In the past, I’d vomit my story of sexual abuse and neglect on any poor soul who’d listen, not with the intention to help her grow through her story, but to gain empathy.
But now I marvel at the path God’s brought me on, how gently He’s led me to this place of wholeness. From that abundance, I share my story. Why? Because I believe sharing the truth about our stories helps others see their own stories.
While I recorded the audio book for Thin Places, the producer asked me why I’d splay my life out this way.
“Because I don’t want folks to feel alone,” I told him.
“You’ve given a gift,” he said. I sure hope so.
In this memoir you give readers a candid glimpse into your upbringing. Was it hard to share particular parts of your story?
In some ways, it was easy. I’ve shared my story over a decade now. What was hard was giving myself permission to say it all, to not hold back, to explore the emotions I experienced during the rapes, the drug parties, the feelings of loneliness.
Oddly, though, it was harder for me to share what I’m dealing with now as a result of my upbringing than the actual initial trauma. It’s hard to admit that I’m still so needy, so insecure. After reading the book aloud, I saw I still had areas of growth, particularly in being so hard on myself.
What do you hope readers gain from reading your memoir?
I hope they see hope.
I hope they realize how profound and surprising and radical God’s redemption is.
I hope they’ll see the irresistibility of Jesus.
Some folks wait until grandparents and parents are deceased until they write a memoir, but you wrote yours with some still alive. Was that difficult?
Extremely. In many ways, agonizing. You can be assured that I prayed through every word. I’m thankful for my critique group who walked me through the writing and my stellar editor who helped shape the manuscript into a redemptive story. My goal was not to impugn or point the finger at what went wrong way back when, but to shout about God’s ability to transform a needy, incomplete girl.
It’s never easy to tell the truth, and I know my words may hurt some. But, thankfully, I’ve sought God’s heart in this and I can rest peacefully in knowing that.
Anne Lamott says, “Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive.”
Thin Places is my answer to her quote.
But why go there? Why examine the past? Hasn’t the old passed away?
Yes, of course we must move forward. We must move beyond our pasts. But in order to do that, we must mourn the reality of what happened, not bury it under a rug. I love what Sam says in The Two Towers movie about the importance of telling our stories, no matter how dark: “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad has happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you.”
It’s my sincere hope that my story will stay with readers, not because of its sordidness, but because the Light of Jesus has shined so brightly upon it.
What fears have you battled as this book released?
Because this is such a personal book, I’ve worried about negative reviews. In some ways that’s good because it will force me to find my security and love from the One who made me, rather than the opinions of others. I’ve received some great endorsements, but also some harsh reviews. And those are the ones that knife me! Because the book’s about me!
I worry that I’ll be misunderstood. Or that telling the truth will hurt others. I’ve made a point to disguise nearly everyone and everything in the book, but of course the potential for hurt feelings is high.
I fear opposition by the father of lies. Since this is a truth-filled book, displaying authentic struggle, I have a feeling he won’t like it. I’m thankful for a specific, targeted prayer team around me to pray for protection regarding the release of this book. It’s humbling, actually, to see how God brought those pray-ers together.
How does your past affect your relationship with God?
Primarily, I have a hard time internalizing and believing that I am wildly loved by God. But I’ve learned that He has deep affection for me and I don’t have to measure up to some invisible standard to earn his affection. My past has obviously influenced that.
Where was God in your abuse?
It’s such a difficult question, and I don’t want to gloss over it. I’ve had to rest in his sovereignty. He was there. I know He was weeping over me when it happened. But he loved humanity enough to give them free will. And then, he knew I would be a healing part of other people’s life. He saw how it would lay out. I didn’t know.
Because of what happened in your past, how do you view evil in the world?
I am more attuned to evil. I’m really aware of the demonic schemes that happen to me and other people. It’s helped me not to be naive and have empathy on people because the battle isn’t against people but against principalities and powers. It’s also helped me to see perpetrators in a way that I can forgive them. They opened the door to evil when they did that. There was an evil force at play. If someone makes bad choices it opens the door to that. It makes me long heaven.
What would you say to people who come from abusive backgrounds about trusting God? What if they can’t? What if they believe He allowed this to happen to them?
In Hebrews 12 it says, “For the joy set before him Jesus endured the cross.” Even Jesus had to walk through the most awful horrific pain to accomplish God’s purpose on earth. He did it for the joy set before him. As a follower of Christ, I’m not guaranteed bad things aren’t going to happen. They will. But my hope is in the joy that's to come.
Think about it this way, what if your life could make a huge difference in the world? People get so locked in to their pain they can’t see anything outside of it. What if Jesus wanted to heal them to be a healing agent in the world? There are so many lives they could change. God’s shoulders are big enough to hold every rage your can throw at him. He already knows you’re disappointed, and upset, let him know. After that Peace comes.