Risking Rest: Embracing God’s Love Through Life’s Uncertainties, by Carolyn J. Watts (hope*books, 2023)
The best memoirs let us experience something of the writer’s world but also invite us to apply some of the life lessons to our own hearts, however different our circumstances.
Risking Rest is a memoir in two parts, linked by the imagery of pregnancy and birth from Dr. Carolyn Watts’ obstetrics training. The first two-thirds of the book revisit her brief years serving in a medical mission to Afghanistan’s “hidden women” in a remote village. A sensitive soul with an as-yet-undiagnosed illness that taxed her body, she nonetheless proved wrong the assessing psychologist’s declaration that she’d never make it—never make meaningful connections there.
For North Americans, this glimpse into the harsh beauty of rural Afghanistan and its courageous women will help us better appreciate the needs. And it helps us see some of what these women have since lost under the restrictive Taliban regime.
For non-medical readers, the narrative of serving 24/7 with never enough staff—or heat!—and while working in a language not their own is the stuff of heroes. But Carolyn Watts is quick to deny the heroic—they served because the need was great, even when exhaustion wore their compassion thin and government officials threatened to shut them down.
In the middle of this intense season, Carolyn wrestled with Jesus’ invitation to rest: “How did ‘my yoke is easy, and my burden is light’ mesh with words about taking up your cross and sharing in Christ’s sufferings? [Page 128]”
She describes feeling a strong call from God to this part of Afghanistan, and that call kept her focused through the hard times—until her deteriorating health brought her back to Canada.
Enter part two of the memoir, learning to let go of the first calling—to focus on the One who gave the call and who was now giving a new call: to be cradled in His love and to learn that weakness could be a gift.
When the outward things that define you are stripped away, who are you?
…the One who brings life into being in us, tending it gently and with great skill, is little worried about the mess of the process. [Page 12]
Cling not to the call but to the One who called. [Page 166]
There are times grace hurts. [Page 167]
Risking Rest is a transparently vulnerable account of one Christian’s lifelong desire to grow closer to God. Each chapter opens with a heart-warming Scripture pointing to how she experienced God’s care even in the hard places. The book concludes with some practical and personal questions to help readers consider their own faith journeys and how they might apply the same lessons for themselves.
Dr. Carolyn Watts is a Canadian writer and blogger. You can find her at Hearing the Heartbeat, which she describes as, “Listening together to God’s heart and making our home in Christ’s love.” I highly recommend subscribing to follow her hope-filled blog posts. To view the trailer for Risking Rest or to download a free chapter, visit hearingtheheartbeat.com/risking-rest.
[Review copy from my personal library.]