How Much Can One Person Endure?
January 19, 2012 § 2 Comments
Snowbound, I settled myself in to read in front of the fireplace, dachshunds curled on rugs at my feet, relishing the warmth. I picked up the book I had bought Dave for Christmas, not sure if it was too much of a man’s read, too much of a soldier’s story to hold my interest. But, a #1 New York Times bestseller must contain more than war stories, I thought. Oh, and the author is a woman, always a good sign.
From the title page I was hooked: Unbroken: a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. The preface plopped me down on a raft in the Pacific Ocean in June 1943. And like the three downed airmen who improbably caught fish and snagged and ate seabirds that kept them alive, I was hooked. I read on with fascination and horror at further revelations in the life of the central character: Olympian runner Louie Zamperini. Inhumane Japanese prisoner of war camps waited for him with treatment that robbed him of human dignity and slashed away at his ability to survive.
The limits of human endurance are played out in scenes of one cruel beating at a time, daily privations, punishing inhumane labor. Those whose minds gave up soon found their physical bodies weakening and giving up. Weakened by illness, overwork, daily beatings, Zamperini hung on with a resilience that seems beyond imaging.
But it was the redemption part that I wasn’t expecting. A life mired in bitterness, with a desire for payback and wracked with violent flashbacks was changed. In a moment. Through the power of God. The same God that had been with Louie when sharks lunged themselves at his sinking raft, and when he heard voices singing as he floated for 47 days seemingly without hope.
We don’t choose the moments in our lives that may require more endurance and resilience than we thought we had to give. We don’t know what we may have to go through in the future. More than a story of the triumph of the human spirit, it is the story of one wrecked, ruined life that endured the unendurable and was redeemed and imbued with purpose.
Four hundred and fifty-seven pages later (yes, I read the notes) I sighed with the singular satisfaction that comes from a great read. And an unforgettable reminder that we can endure the unendurable, live in forgiveness and redeem the past … with God’s help.
ⓒ Inger Logelin 2012