The Scent of Water: Grace for Every Kind of Broken
This fine, poetic book by Naomi Zacharias is described best by it's subtitle. Grace for every kind of broken.
The title of the book comes from the Scriptures in Job, about the tree whose stump is dead in the ground.
"Yet at the scent of water it will bud..." The mere scent of healing and life will make a tree put forth shoots.
What if the scent of Grace could be to the heart the scent of water?
What if the scent of hope and healing could help a heart bud forth again?
Sensitive is the word to describe Naomi's writing style, a sensitivity to the truth of Scripture and to the hurting human heart. This sensitivity should characterize us as Christians.
Her love of India and other corners of the world God has made shine in this book.
Most of us will never see these places in our lifetime- Naomi takes us there. The people and the world they live in... the exploited streets of Amsterdam where girls with wide eyes stand behind windows for sale... the little boy selling colored scarves who trotted beside Naomi and asked her to buy him milk.
She tells us their stories... our stories.
As Naomi says, I would be the girl behind the window, if what had happened to her had happened to me. There is no difference between us.
Once upon a time there was a lady selling pearls.
She showed her customer round, common, pink pearls, all the same. Objectively beautiful pearls.
Then the customer noticed a rare black pearl. It was not smooth, or pink. It caught the light and reflected it in a way the smooth pearls did not. The merchant saw the customers eyes on the rare pearl.
"'Some people see them as flawed," the merchant said,"While others see them as special."
The customer bought all four black pearls, in their uneven and unique beauty, and gifted them to friends of hers. One of those friends was Naomi Zacharias, and the little pearl became a metaphor for those whose life is not smooth, pink and flawless. Which is all of us.
In India there was a girl, Prema, who was burned as a child trying to make tea. She is now a reconstructive surgeon, head of the department at a Christian Medical College. She treats burn victims. "As Prema sat across from me in a striking sari of pink and green, I was captivated by her.
She exuded strength...something reminiscent of the architectural grace and genius of a pillar. She is a strikingly beautiful woman. It is not in spite of the scars, and not only because of them. A scar is not the source of beauty; it can only indicate the presence of of something that lies beneath its surface and guide you to its hidden depths. And in doing so, it becomes the symbol of beauty itself."
In the Netherlands there was a girl forced into "legal" prostitution. The girl was a branded body to the men who use her and a statistic to the outside world. A statistic without a face, until Naomi met her. Then she was a wounded girl with a real name and an aching soul- sold into slavery by a man, unprotected by the government she lives under because she is now considered a legal prostitute. Her government is proud of its sadistic "sex tourism". The government is not the one covered in bruises and demeaned every day by brutal attacks.
The orphanage in South Africa there was a young boy was bound to a plywood board, his neck broken from being dropped as a baby. He could not move his head. But when Naomi stroked his cheek, tears rolled down his face, and his dark eyes turned to hers. He could not speak. "Words were lost in translation. But there was something that transcended limitations. It was a language, not of country or ethnicity or mental capacity, but of humanity; it was the power of human touch and the potential it carries to soothe a wound deep inside a soul."
One upon a time a theologian prayed that God would break his heart for everything that broke God's own heart.
The pain and brokenness of the world certainly breaks our Father's heart.
This world has little time for broken people.
It teaches us to deny our brokenness,
to be ashamed of brokenness,
to hide from brokenness, to run from brokenness.
Instead the world peddles false strength,
and false idols.
But God doesn't want us to run from brokenness, to deny brokenness, to be ashamed of brokenness. "I thought I was running from something," Naomi writes, "As it turns out, I was running toward something. In the presence of things that were broken- dreams, intentions, ambitions, and human spirit-I found invaluable lessons in life in the vulnerability of Annie and her convicting questions; the integrity of greif and acceptance of Anna, the angst and perseverance of Mariam. These are present day examples of age old stories. These people have not established my belief in whom or what God uses, they were just revelations in real time of what God had already told me."
Naomi's writing helps break our heart a little bit so that we can open up our own brokenness to His Grace.
I was blessed to receive my copy of Scent of Water from zondervan.
January 30, 2013
A very real look at life at its best and worst
I really enjoyed reading this book and the stories told are truly captivating. It can be hard to explain the horrible things that happen in this world and many people wonder why God would allow such unspeakable things to even happen. I don't think any person can explain that and have it make complete sense, but this book does a wonderful job showing God's love, forgiveness, and redemption in circumstances that may otherwise seem hopeless. It beautifully shows that, as humans, we are all connected on a deep level, regardless of our current situation, our religious beliefs (or lack of), our skin color, or any past wrongs or trauma we have been through or may have put others through. Everyone Naomi meets she feels this connection with and by acting out the love that Christ has for us, she feels compassion for all people, regardless of how different their life has been from hers.
I give it 4 stars instead of 5 for a couple reasons. First, I got a bit confused a couple times during the telling of all her travels and adventures. There were a lot of different friends, friends of friends, and newly met people in the same field who were going to help her in a new country, for example. Sometimes I would reread things a few times and still not understand who was doing what or bringing her where and when. Eventually, I decided it wasn't too important to try to figure out since the overall story made sense so I stopped trying and just kept reading. The other thing that stood out to me at the end was how little information is given of the author's story compared to the other stories she retells throughout the book. Maybe she wasn't comfortable giving out details on her divorce (which is only mentioned a few times, but not elaborated on) and other personal struggles, and I guess if that's the case you can't really blame her. But, in a book full of other women's stories with very personal and even embarrassing details it seemed a bit odd that she didn't explain her own a little more. Like I said, maybe she just wasn't comfortable doing that, but with a book that was pretty much half her own story and half the stories of others I felt a little unsatisfied at the end of the book.
Overall though this is a great book and although it is a quick read, it can be hard at times because of the upsetting, but all too true, content. The stories require you to examine yourself and your own life and how much of the grace that we all need you are giving to others, and to yourself.
April 24, 2012
What a wonderful book - a gift from God really
What a wonderful book - a gift from God really in a time of great loss for me. Just a few weeks ago, I lost my wonderful 92 year old father. My family and I have had a few years of one devastating situation seemingly followed by another, and Naomi's honesty about trials and loss in her own life was a timely balm to my soul. It gave me hope for every situation - God IS the great restorer, no matter how hopeless and horrible things may seem to us. Thank you Naomi for letting the wonderful light and love of God shine through your words in this life giving book!
April 18, 2012
This is a wonderful book. It helps put things in perspective since we often forget how blessed we are.
March 5, 2012