Rid of My Disgrace

Book: Rid of My Disgrace
Author: Justin and Lindsey Holcumb
Review Date: September, 2014

What do you do after the unthinkable happens?  When the peace of life is ravaged by sexual assault and your identity and worth seem to have been destroyed, where do you turn?

According to authors Justin and Lindsey Holcumb, these questions are burning in the hearts of one out of every four American women and one of six American men.  Why?  Because they are victims of sexual assault.

In their book Rid of My Disgrace, the Holcumbs combine their ministry/counseling experience with their deep appreciate of the gospel as they show assault victims where to turn after the unthinkable happens.  In addition, their gospel-focus and professional insights equip pastors, teachers, and others to bless their loved ones who are putting the pieces back together after being assaulted.

My initial reaction to this book was one of deep appreciation.  The good news about the cleansing, healing, reconstructing, hope-giving work of Jesus was the theme in every chapter.  Consider just a few quotes:

“What Jesus has done for you is the answer for what has been done to you.” (Quote from Mark Driscoll)

“The assault does not define you or have the last word on your identity.  Yes, it is part of your story, but not the end of your story.”

“Healing comes by hearing God’s statements to you, not speaking your own statements to yourself.”

“Human sin is stubborn, but not as stubborn as the grace of God and not half so persistent, not half so ready to suffer to win its way.” (Quote from Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.)

Although I haven’t personally suffered the trauma of sexual assault, the Holcumbs still moved my heart with their relentless focus on the relentless grace of God.  I love their reminders that who I truly am, my identity in the eyes of God, has nothing to do with what I’ve done or what’s been done to me, and everything to do with what Jesus has done for me.

Secondly, I appreciated the authors’ recognition that this sin is evil.  Through victims’ stories and their own analysis, they villainize sexual assault, painting it in the dark colors it deserves, yet insisting that God has not abandoned anyone to such darkness.

“The only thing more staggering than the prevalence of abuse is the acute damage done to the victims.”

“I know God wept when I was molested.”

“Mourn.  Grieve.  Cry.  God is grieved by and angry at what happened to you.  He is even more grieved and angry than you are, so you are invited to participate with God in his grief and anger.”

Those stories, interspersed between the more technical chapters, opened my eyes to the gruesome reality of sexual assault and the real healing the gospel brings.

My only criticism of Rid of My Disgrace is the “thickness” of it.  Many chapters were heavy explanations of technical and biblical topics that lacked, in my opinion, the necessary stories, applications, and illustrations to keep my interest.

The final two chapters, for example, explain God’s grace in the Old and New Testament, but do so in a less than captivating way.  I scribbled, “Reads like my old class notes!” on more than one occasion.  (No offense to any of my former professors who might read this review…)

As a pastor and a friend to many sexual assault victims, I would highly recommend this book.  It taught me to apply the gospel in ways specific to the damage caused by this type of sin.  The Holcumbs’ insights have flavored my preaching so that those who have not only sinned, but been sinned against will know God’s cleansing, restorative grace.  Shame comes in different ways and sometimes is rooted in what others have done to us or said about us, but grace is always greater.

Or, as Crystal explains when telling her story in the book, “As people have lied, hurt, abused, mistreated, and abandoned me, I, too, had lied, hurt, abused, mistreated, and abandoned God; yet he still loves me.  I am not ‘damaged goods.’  I am his daughter.”

Jesus is the only way to get rid of our disgrace.