Five years ago my husband, two kids and I pulled into the driveway of our new house in the Chicago suburbs, a geographic region roughly four times larger than any place we’d lived before. Other than a few people we casually encountered during my husband’s job interview process, we didn’t know a single soul. Not one.
It was three days before Christmas.
You can imagine our surprise then, when two days before Christmas our doorbell rang. My husband’s new coworker, Mike, and his wife, Anita, stood on our porch with a gift basket: welcome to your new home, welcome to your new job, welcome to your new life. And by the way, Merry Christmas.
At the time I had no idea that the woman standing in my living room that day was the co-host of a nationally syndicated radio program soon to be awarded the National Radio Broadcasting Program of the Year. And I had no idea that our common passion for God, for women and our favorite cafe would not only forge a friendship, but continually overlap our circles, ultimately providing me with the privilege of scribbling in the margins of her unpublished manuscript. A manuscript that almost five years after our Christmas encounter would become her first book: What Women Tell Me: Finding Freedom from the Secrets We Keep.
The subtitle grabs me now more than ever, especially when I look back on that December day and realize the things I really had no idea about: that sitting on my couch was a woman who had survived the unending grind of single parenthood, a woman who had been deeply wounded by lonlieness and divorce and, perhaps most surprisingly, a woman who had endured the devastating effects of a spouse addicted to pornography. (For the record, Mike was the one who came later. . . riding the horse . . . wearing the full suit of armor).
It seems to be the way it goes for us, doesn’t it? Seeing the polished exterior and then being surprised when the inside isn’t just as shiny?
It’s why Anita wrote her book.
Because she knows that secrets are dangerous and that often they fester in people whose lives are so pretty on the outside that no one would ever suspect that they’re actually dying a slow emotional death. Secrets carried by the people who sit next to us in church, who pass us in the hall at work, who chat with us at little league games, who post chummy one-liners on their FB status. Secrets carried by people like you and people like me.
Secrets from which Anita desperately wants us to be set free.
“We think we are all alone, that no one else is in our same situation,” Anita said. “And we believe that if others really knew, I mean really had a clue about our secrets they’d never want to be in relationship with us. In fact we think they’d turn tail and run for the hills so we remain paralyzed and we live a lie. Wherever there are secrets there is darkness.”
But what if it didn’t have to be that way?
What if God really does have the power to heal and transform even the darkest parts of us? What if, as Larry Crabb tells Anita (p. 194), “You are this beautiful mare that has been confined to a horse trailer; you’ve been pulled around in that horse trailer for years, but someone has just opened the back gate, and you’ve come out of that trailer and you’re free.”?
What Women Tell Me shares the stories of Anita’s listeners — women who have experienced despair in the midst of domestic violence, eating disorders, sexual addiction, lonliness and divorce — as well as Anita’s own story in response. The convergence of these two experiences not only gives Anita a unique perspective, but has ignited her passion to communicate freedom to burdened souls, freedom given by the One who knows all of our secrets and loves us in spite of every single one.
If you would, take a moment to check out the book (and by check out I mean buy) and Anita’s website. Pass it on to your friends.
Just one caveat: When you read Chapter 2, the part about how she used to wear a two-inch square pendant with a fist on it that said, “I am a revolutionary and my hero is Jesus Christ,” go easy on her. I promise she’s come a long, long way. I guarantee if she showed up on your doorstep two days before Christmas, you’d become fast friends too.
Congratulations Anita. It’s a privilege to share your work here on this blog.
READ ME: One last thing! I have a FREE AUTOGRAPHED copy of the book to give to one lucky blog reader. All you have to do is leave a comment on the blog (not on my FB page!) by Friday, January 21, in response to this post. Anita will stop by and pick her favorite comment and I will mail you an autographed copy of the book. Just do it!