Friday, December 27, 2013

My Story, Elizabeth Smart with Chris Stewart

Ok. Reading this back to back with Malala's book was crazy. Although I didn't time when the books would come from being on hold at the library that's how it went. This book was a crazy page turner. I finished it in 2 days, mostly because I didn't feel I could live her ordeal in any more time than was necessary. While hard to read, I decided that if Elizabeth needed to write about it, then people needed to read about it. I remember hearing the chilling news about a young Salt Lake girl being kidnapped from her home. And I can tell you exactly where I was when I heard the joyous news that she had been found! I remember praying for her, after her abduction, during her time missing (even when statistics said she was likely dead), and even more insistently when she was returned that the events would not traumatize her or haunt her for the rest of her life. What happened to her could be rated Explicit. It was not enjoyable to read. But like I said, if she needed it out there, it needs to be read. And the lessons in it are amazing.

This, like the story of Louis Zamperini in "Unbroken" can leave you in no other state than one of deepest humility and gratitude with a determination to be more grateful for everything you have, to show your love to those you love more often, and to be more forgiving instead of vengeful. Which I think is needed today in a world where one of the most watched television series is "Revenge" (yes, I watch it...but it's really in hope that they pain the road to revenge as one that the main character should never have pursued and how it stole her life and happiness when she could have just let go and lived a happier life).

If you don't know the story of Elizabeth Smart, you are either too young to remember when it all happened 10-11 years ago or maybe you lived in a cave at the time. But just a recap; 14 year old Elizabeth was kidnapped in the middle of the night from her bed where she shared a room with her younger sister. She was kept prisoner for 9 months. Her captor, Brian David Mitchell, one of the most evil men to walk this earth, a master manipulator pretending to be delusional, "married" himself to her and subject her to sexual abuse on a daily basis, forced her to view the hardest core pornography and his own personal "demonstrations" forced drug and alcohol consumption, subject her to neglect of starvation, no water, and very little regard to hygiene for anyone. His wife, Wanda Barzee, was accomplice to this as she never tried to protect Elizabeth and had some previous wicked acts to her name as well. And worse, he tried to take over her mind with fear and succeeded enough to make her feel like she couldn't even reveal herself to a police officer for threat of her and her entire family's life.

It is nothing short of an absolute miracle that Elizabeth never overdosed on a drug, got alcohol poisoning, died of thirst or starvation, got pregnant, or accidentally addicted to any substance. Beyond that, it is nothing short of a miracle that she never developed any of the horrendous physical ailments that come from malnutrition and physical exertion, or heat exhaustion/stroke. That she was able to keep her mind about her and never fall to the Stockholm Syndrome or any psychotic episodes as a result of her being abused. She completely overcame. Little rays of light and hope during her ordeal and wisdom coming after she was returned, along with her faith in God and her religious convictions have been her healing path. Following are some of my favorite quotes or stories.

While being forced to hike up the hill where Mitchell had his camp.
"I was so confused and so afraid. I don't understand! I did what you [God] have asked me! This can't be what you wanted! And it certainly wasn't. I know that now. Being taken captive was not part of some great, eternal plan. But the confusion was overwhelming. My mind tumbled in sheer terror: This doesn't make any sense! I've never done anything wrong! And though it would take awhile, the answers to my confusion eventually settled in my mind. I don't think what happened to me was something that God intended. He surely would not have wished the anguish and torment that I was about to go through upon anyone, especially upon a child. But since that time I have learned an important lesson. Yes, God can make some good come from evil. But even He, in all His majesty, won't make the evil go away. Men are free. He won't control them. There is wickedness in this world. Which left me with this: When faced with pain and evil, we have to make a choice. We can choose to be taken by the evil. Or we can try to embrace the good."page 10 -11

Sometimes we look for a "reason" behind evil acts. The person must be crazy. They must have some sort of psychotic issues or mental illnesses. We resist the idea that someone could consciously and rationally choose to be evil. But it's out there. I guess it's because we find the idea that someone would do this without any other explanation so repulsive that we shy away from it. But we can't do that in this case. As Elizabeth said:
"I also knew that, as time went by, he slipped deeper and deeper into his caricature of a prophet. But none of it was real. Brain David Mitchell is not insane. THe professional analysis is clear. He is a manipulative, antisocial, and narcissistic pedophile. He is not clinically psychotic or delusional. He is just an evil man." The religious thing was a convenient way to manipulate the situation and people around him. He is simply an evil man. Nothing else do it. And as repulsive as it is, it needs to be recognized. There is no justifying away his actions. He knew what he was doing, he knew the possible consequences of his actions. But he carried them out anyway. And had no remorse. Going as far as to faking seizures in the courtroom to prolong things or to prove that he somehow still had ultimate control over things. Narcissism at its finest.

On pages 131-132 she recounts a story of a miracle of a pioneer girl whose feet would leave bloody footprints in the snow because her shoes had worn out and found a pair of brand new shoes her size in some bushes and the only explanation was a miracle. After going several days without water, she awoke in the middle of the night for no reason. Both captors were asleep and when she looked around she found a yellow cup filled the the brim with clean, cold water. There was no way her captors would have shared if they had found water, the nearest source of water was a grueling hike down and then back up, and by the time they got it back was never super cold and tasted like the plastic jugs used to haul it up.  "Where did the water come from? I have no explanation other than the water came from God. I know we didn't have a drop of water in the camp.....Why did God do it? How did it happen? What was God trying to say? Would I have died without the water? Certainly not. As thirsty as I felt, and as terrible as it was, I was not teetering on the edge of a life-or-death situation. And I was not alone. Mitchell and Barzee needed water too. Mitchell wasn't going to stay up on the mountain and let us all die of thirst. Eventually he would have had to go down to the stream. So why did God send me the water? Because He loved me. And He wanted me to know. He wanted me to know that He was still near. He wanted me to know that He controlled the Earth and all the heavens, that all things were in His hands. And if He could move mountains, then he could do this thing for me. To Him it was a small thing-a terribly easy thing to do-but for me it was as powerful as if He had parted the sea. This experience reminded me once again that God had not deserted me. He was aware of my suffering and loneliness. And that assurance gave me hope. It helped me to keep my faith and gave me the strength that I needed to go on."

I think about all the times I get mad and decide to blame God for not helping me when it's so obviously in His power. If I were in Elizabeth's shoes, I'm not sure I would have accepted the miracle so graciously. I might have been thankful for an instant and then think sarcastically, "Great, He can conjure up a cup of cold water for me but He can't manage to help me escape or be rescued. Nice." And for that, I feel quite ashamed. I need to do some changing in perspective.....

Some advice her mother gave to her shortly after she was returned home on pages 285-286
"Elizabeth, what this man has done is terrible. There aren't any words that are strong enough to describe how wicked and evil he is! He has taken nine months of your life that you will never get back again. But the best punishment you could ever give him is to be happy. To move forward with your life. To do exactly what you want. Because yes, this will probably go to trial and some kind of sentencing will be given to him and that wicked woman. But even if that's true, you may never feel like justice has been served or that true restitution has been made. But you don't need to worry about that. At the end of the day, God is our ultimate judge. He will make up to you every pain and loss that you have suffered. And if it turns out that these wicked people are not punished here on Earth, it doesn't matter. His punishments are just. You don't ever have to worry. You don't ever have to even thick about them again. You be happy, Elizabeth. Just be happy. If you go and feel sorry for yourself, or if you swell on what has happened, if you hold on to your pain, that is allowing him to steal more of your life away. So don't you do that! Don't you let him! There is no way that he deserves that. Not one more second of your life. You keep every second for yourself. You keep them and be happy. God will take care of the rest."God bless her mother for those inspired words of wisdom!

And finally this gem from Elizabeth on page 303
"When we are faced with a challenge, it is very easy to be mad or upset. But when we have passed our great test, we are then given opportunities to reach out to other people. We are able to effect change in a way that otherwise we wouldn't have been able to.

May God bless you and your family always, Elizabeth Smart, and smile on your marriage and the family you have created and will expand in the coming years.

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