Several months ago, I made a commitment to read any non-fiction book that hit #1 on the NYTimes best-seller's list (print & e-book list). Since then, I have read and reviewed Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo & Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Just a few weeks ago, A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard made it's debut on the list at #1. I faintly remembered her story and thought it would be an interesting book to read.
Warning: This book tells the real accounts of a young 11-year old girl being kidnapped and sexually abused by a man and his wife. She was held captive for 18 years, gave birth to two girls by him before she was found. This book contains the words of Jaycee herself. It is real. It is raw. At points, I wanted to put it down and honestly almost didn't finish it. I warn you, if you are going to read it, there is language and imagery that will be offensive to you. If it isn't offensive, there is something wrong with you. She said that she wrote the book for two reasons:
"One reason is that Phillip Garrido believes no one should find out what he did to an eleven-year-old girl . . . me. He also believes he is not responsible for his actions. I believe differently. I believe that everyone should know exactly what he and his wife Nancy were doing all these years in their backyard. I believe I shouldn't be ashamed for what happened to me, and I want Phillip Garrido to know that I no longer have to keep his secret. And that he is most certainly responsible for stealing my life and the life I should have had with my family. I am also writing my story in the hopes that it will be of help to someone going through, hopefully not similar conditions, but someone facing a difficult situation of their own--whatever that may be . . . My goal is to inspire people to speak out when they see that something is not quite right around them." (ix-x)
I thought the best way I could give a review of this book would be to write a letter to Jaycee. I know that she will never read it, but if I had a chance to talk to her, this is what I would say to her.
My heart broke when I read your story. You just might be the bravest woman I have ever read about. Words cannot explain the pain and anger that welled up inside of me when I read what Phillip did to you. Please understand, I know what I write will never help you deal with the pain that you experienced, neither will it bring back the years that were stolen from you. But, if you have the time to read this, there are four things I would like you to tell you.
First, Phillip did those things to you because he is a sinner. You stated several times that he would tell you that he couldn't help himself. He wanted to stop targeting little girls, but he just couldn't stop. He would say things like "the angels made me do it." The truth of the matter is that he had given in to the sinful nature that is part of all of us. The Bible says that all people are born into sin (Ephesians 2:1-3). All of us, myself included, are by nature sinners. I am sure when your little girls were growing up in the back yard that you never had to teach them to be selfish. You never had to teach them to think only of themselves. That was natural to them.
We are all sinners, but Phillip took it deeper and farther than most people do. Most people have a moral restraint, but Phillip let his conscious go. He did whatever he wanted to do to satisfy his natural fleshly desires. I am not dismissing the fact there was probably some demonic influence in his life, but he is responsible for his actions. I know that he had to answer to the judge when he went to court, but one day, he will have to answer to the Ultimate Judge, his maker and God. And so will I. And so will you.
Second, Phillip's representation of the Bible was just as wrong as the things that he did to you. You said that he would make you sit and listen to his Bible studies. You said that he would read the Bible often. Let me just say that to read the Bible is one thing, to listen and obey the Bible is quite another. Obviously, he missed the most important part of the Bible. The point of the Bible is to tell us how to have a relationship with God. It is a message of reconciliation, not of captivity. It is given by God so we can be changed, not so we can hurt other people. Please do not connect what he did to you with anything to do with the Bible.
I would beg of you to read the Bible for yourself, maybe for the first time. I would beg of you to read about Jesus. The story of Jesus is not just about a good man, but it is about God becoming one of us, to rescue us. I know for so long you wanted someone to come and rescue you. It took 18 years for that to happen to you physically. Spiritually, it could happen to you today!
Third, the things that happened to you are not the greatest tragedy our world has ever seen. In your personal experience, this will be very difficult to understand. I am not trying to diminish the fact that your life has not turned out like you thought it would. I am not trying to minimize the fact that you have endured more hell on this earth than any person should ever endure. I am not sure how to say this to you, but the greatest tragedy that has ever happened on this earth was when the eternal God became man, lived a perfect life, and was condemned a sinner (even though He never sinned), and was killed as a criminal.
Jesus did nothing wrong and He was killed because men despised Him. The things that happened to you are not your fault. You did nothing to deserve it. Yet, as I mentioned earlier, we are all sinners. I am a sinner. And you are a sinner. Jesus came to this earth, lived the perfect life, went to the cross to bear the sins of humanity so that our sins could be taken away.
Fourth, your stolen life can be saved for eternity. You thought the day you walked into that police station is the day that your life was given back to you. You think that is the day your life was saved. But there could be another day for you. I am assuming from reading your book that you are not a Christian. You have never come to the point of repenting of your sin and believing in Jesus alone for salvation. I would ask you to do that today.
Your stolen life will never be given back to you. I know there have been several times that you have said "what if." What if you never went to school that day. What if that parole officer would have checked that back yard. What if you would have had the courage to just run away. Well, there is coming a day after you die that your life will be gone once again. The Bible says that when we die, we will either spend eternity with Jesus in heaven or eternity apart from His presence in eternal destruction. There are millions of people who right now, in eternal punishment, are thinking "what if." What if I would have just given my life up while I was living. What if I would have just read the Bible. What if I would have thought of eternity a bit more than the temporal. I hope your eternal life will not turn out like your temporal life.
At the bottom of this letter, I am giving you several passages of Scripture I hope you would read. If you have any questions, I would love to answer them. Please know I am praying for you. I am praying that you will one day fully understand ultimate forgiveness, when you experience God forgiving you of all your sins because you have trust Jesus with your entire life.
Praying for Healing,
P. S. Here is the list of verses I would recommend you reading.