The Other Side of Darkness
By Melody Carlson ISBN#978-1-400-7081-7
Published by Multnomah
Once again, I have kept the demons at bay. As a wife and mother, Ruth knows her prayers are crucial to her family's welfare. She stands between her precious children and evil, and she can't afford to be careless.
Thankfully, Ruth has powerful allies in her pastor and her church. If only her husband, Rick, understood. He's exasperated about the money Ruth keeps spending on church and their kids' Christian school.
Doesn't he see that these are their best defenses in shielding their daughters from the dangers of the world?
But the forces that threaten Ruth's faith, her family – her very life- are not the ones she perceives. Ruth doesn't realize that her heartfelt desire to obey God is mingled with the dangerous currents of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In the end, will her own strategies for protecting her family be the very thing that tears them apart?
Hold on to your heart when you read this gut-wrenching real situation in which Melody Carlson describes how someone could easily find themselves in a cult. I think the circumstances of this situation makes it scary and real when you see how the little things that grab the main character Ruth at first. It's the little things - like words said, things prayed about that prick her spirit and weigh heavy on her heart. But she brushes them off as nonsense in the beginning, when she finds herself in the middle of a church split. She's confused about what to do.
It's not something that Ruth intentionally seeks out to be a part of; "they" draw her into one of the churches that split. Ruth likes Pastor Glenn, who left and went to start his own church. The members that stay behind try to warn Ruth of Pastor Glenn's questionable behavior. 'Things aren't what they appear to be', they tell her. But Cynthia, the new church secretary, starts befriending Ruth. Cynthia has answers to the accusations and starts grooming Ruth for a good position in the new church. They "need" Ruth - and her money. Oh, it's not said like that; it's more subtle. They start building Ruth up by telling her she was made for this position, and Ruth likes the attention and responsibility.
Pastor Glenn's assistant and worship leader at the new church, Bronte, heads up the prayer meeting where Ruth discovers some pretty disturbing things from her past – things she doesn't remember but the "new" church members tell her she has experienced. "Ruth you just have to trust God" they tell her. Fellow members of the new church set out to train Ruth to do 'Spiritual Warfare' to fight the enemy. It's the only way the demons will leave her and her family alone. Ruth must trust them because she needs to be set free from this horrible event in her past - she can't remember. Ruth has unsettling feelings about all this. The Holy Spirit is trying to rear it's head in Ruth's reality but she chalks it up to being a child of the faith and weak in character. Ruth was determined to learn to be like the others and become a strong warrior in this battle she signed up to fight against the devil.
"God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind." Cynthia and Bronte don't lead Ruth to this scriptural passage -- that's for sure -- the very passage Ruth needs to be free. They feed her a bunch of half truths and twisted scripture to back up the lies. And, since Ruth was not a self-thinker, she believed everything they told her.
Ruth's husband, Rick, tries to tell her these "new" church people are filling her up with fear so they can control her. Rick says, "I'm not a theologian Ruth, but the Jesus I know is about love and forgiveness. Your church gives more glory to Satan than it does to God." Ruth doesn't listen to him because he doesn't go to her church. "What does he know?", she asks herself. The others warned her not to listen to Rick and what he had to say. She had to fight the good fight.
I truly felt for Ruth and her family in this story. Melody Carlson does such an amazing job of portraying Ruth getting drawn into this cult hook, line and sinker. She also describes what Ruth's immediate family does to help her as they see her getting in deeper and deeper into the "new" church, being driven far away from them all.
Melody Carlson tells the story from a first person point of view which made it read as if you were in Ruth's head as she struggles with her inner turmoil. This story is all too real!! Cults are popping up everywhere and I've always wondered how someone would get into one in the first place. Melody Carlson delivers a story of hope, forgiveness and redemption. It was difficult to read in some parts because I wasn't sure how far Ruth would be lead down the wrong path with this "new" church. I think this book is a must read for everyone. Melody Carlson gives us a glimpse into the world around us. You will never forget Ruth and her struggles. It's haunting.
Nora St. Laurent – Book Club Servant Leader