Sunday, September 8, 2013

Book Review: He Leadeth Me

He Leadeth Me, by Walter J. Ciszek, is the account of a man's transformation from striving to please God with his life to a complete surrender of his life to God.
The author sought to live for God; he became a Catholic priest to serve the Lord; he cultivated his prayer life long before he "needed" God; he attempted to discern the Lord's will and obey Him. But he discovered in a prison in Russia during World War II that all his efforts paled beside complete surrender. By feeling abandoned by God when he needed Him the most, Fr. Ciszek learned that the fault lay in himself, for thinking of himself more highly than he ought rather than trusting his Savior no matter what. He describes the experience as a discovery that he depended on his own abilities and his own wisdom, expecting the Holy Spirit to guide him according to the path he was certain the Lord would want him to follow. Because he wasn't open to any other direction, he wasn't able to hear the Spirit's guidance along any other path until he encountered the reality of his dependence on himself.
Of course this discovery isn't the end of the story. As many others have experienced before and since, when God teaches an individual such a profound lesson He follows it up with opportunities to practice and mature in living out what was learned. In Fr Ciszek's case, he continued several more years in prison in solitary confinement, then endured the cross of labor camp in Siberia, then remained in Russia in exile for several more years before being allowed to return to the United States. This is real life. After every mountaintop experience we have to descend to the valley to live out what we have received from the Lord.
My husband and I both appreciated this book as an account of a man's spiritual growth. The book Fr. Ciszek wrote first, With God in Russia, tells the story of his experience during the same time period. My husband says it doesn't give the spiritual aspects and differs in a lot of details (I haven't read it yet). We will probably leave it up to our children whether they read it or not, but include He Leadeth Me in the list of books we require them to read in high school, as an autobiography of a prisoner in Russia during and after WWII, who discovered during the course of his time there just how important it is to surrender your life fully to God and allow Him to direct your path.

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