Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My Story

I remember the horror and concern when Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from her home. I remember the relief and amazement, nine months later, when she was returned to her family. What really amazed me, in the years that followed, was the sense that she had come through this intact, that she was coping, that she seemed to be living a normal life.

Of course, I only knew what I saw in the media - and I didn't follow closely, and only saw snippets of even that information. But I knew she had founded the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, to prevent and stop predatory crimes. I knew she spoke out on behalf of victims. But I was curious as to how she had managed to cope, apparently, so well.

So, even though I worried a bit about being a voyeur, I wanted to read her story, as told in her memoir My Story (with Christ Stewart). I wanted to see what she herself had to say.

Smart described in detail her nine months with Mitchell and his wife. She did not describe his abuse in detail, except to recount - over and over - "he raped me." She did describe her thoughts - the thoughts of a fourteen-year-old - as she tried to figure out how to survive.

She told of her faith, and how this helped her endure. She told of several miracles that encouraged her. And she told of persuading Mitchell to return to Utah, from California, knowing that if anyone was still looking for her, it would be in Salt Lake City.

I think, ultimately, that her mother's advice, when Smart finally was home again, was the beginning of her recovery.
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 think about them again.

You be happy, Elizabeth. Just be happy. If you go and feel sorry for yourself, or if you dwell 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.
Smart followed that advice. She hung on to gratitude and faith, and let the pain and anger and hurt go. She wrote
. . . I decided very early that I only had one life and that I wasn't going to waste it.

As of this writing, I am twenty-five years old. I have been alive for 307 months. Nine of those months were pretty terrible. But 298 of those months have been very good. I have been happy. I have been very blessed. Who knows how many more months I have to live? But even if I died tomorrow, nine out of 307 seems like pretty good odds.
Those nine months were, as Smart said, pretty terrible. But what Smart has done since then is pretty amazing, too.

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