The Way Of Letting Go: One Woman’s Walk Toward Forgiveness, by Wilma Derksen
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Zondervan. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
As a survivor of early childhood rape/incest, the issue of forgiveness has always been one I have long wrestled with in my own life . If this example is a bit shocking to you, then this book is likely to be shocking as well, as the author dwells a lot both on her own Mennonite background as well as the gruesome details of the death of her daughter and its aftermath for her and her family. My own thoughts and feelings about this book are somewhat mixed, in that the author spends far too much time and space glorying in being progressive, something which I intensely loathe hearing. The word itself is an offense. Likewise, the author has more than a few quirks in her writing style that are a bit irritating, such as her continual references to Jesus Christ as the Nazerene, giving her interpretation of his behavior as a counterpoint to her own struggles to be forgiving of her daughter’s murderer and her own difficulties at dealing with the fallout of becoming connected to such a murder. Of course, she became an advocate for justice, and got involved with social causes. I suppose such an occurrence is more or less inevitable.
This book is composed of various chapters relating to the issue of learning how to forgive that are organized in a thematic but definitely not a chronological order. There are flashbacks and flash forwards and the organization of the book is a bit muddled, much like the political worldview of the author. Be that as it may, after beginning with a few chapters relating to the death of her daughter and the aftermath, most of the book consists of chapters about letting go: letting go of the happy ending, fear, grief, ego, narrow faith, the old me, our expectation that life is fair, guilt and blame, our need to know, rage, obsession with the offender, justice fantasies, easy resolution, self-pity, and closure. After this the book, which is a bit more than 200 pages, ends with some chapters on the never-ending process of forgiveness and what it means before having a discussion on Joseph justice, some further reading on the subject, and some rather lengthy endnotes. The more compelling you find the author’s account of the story of her and her family, and the more you can put up with her false dilemmas and framing, the better you will find this book to be.
It cannot be denied that this world ha a great need for forgiveness. Yet it also has a great need for justice, something that cannot be found in this world given our corrupt systems and our imperfect human beings. To be sure, most of us would not want perfect justice if we realized what it truly meant about our own sins and faults. Yet at the heart of this book is a false dilemma, in that the author focuses on the merciful aspects of God without those parts of God that are just and powerful. Ultimately, it was this flawed view of God that made the book feel so partisan and one-sided. Even if you have chosen to forgive, that does not mean being an aggressively noisy doormat as this author is. Nor does it mean devoting one’s life to “progressive” causes, as this author has done, nor does it mean giving a skewed perspective of Jesus to make it seem as if he endorses the author’s biased social gospel worldview. The world needs a better book on forgiveness than this one is, but if writing it helped her deal with it, then it is not a total waste, at least.
 See, for example: