A review of Amber Nicole Metz’s Breathtaking
A modern-day A Grief Observed and Confessions combined, Breathtaking is an account of a young woman who walked through the valley of the shadow of death and found that He alone is enough.
- Paperback: 212 pages
- Publisher: Pleasant Word-A Division of WinePress Publishing (December 4, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1414108974
- ISBN-13: 978-1414108971
- Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
I have in my hands Amber Nicole Metz’s “Breathtaking.” Amber has been battling cystic fibrosis for her entire life. After nineteen years, her lungs were useless and needed to be replaced. The book is a collection of letters and emails documenting her time as she waited for the double lung transplant. One would expect that being so near to death for so long that Amber would have descended into a morbid outlook on life. The back of the book calls her personal testimony “A modern-day twist on C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed.” That book really was dark! Even if it was edifying and comforting, it was dark. Amber’s testimony is filled with hope and light. “Breathtaking” is an encouragement to all who struggle against circumstance and points the way to Amber’s source: God himself.
One gets the idea early on that Amber does not have a push-over soul. Her friends contributed their own accounts of Amber’s situation. Her constant coughing fits- her inability even to enjoy humor, because laughing hurt so bad- her optimism in the face of impending death, her rides through the countryside ‘chasing the sun,’ these anecdotes and more help us learn about what kind of woman Amber is. Through her emails and letters to friends and family, Amber consistently shares why she is the kind of woman she is.
As I read the book I wondered how I would be if I had a death sentence hanging over my head for an extended period of time. I think most of us would admit that we would have many, many low moments. If our physical health also kept us confined to our beds for days or even weeks on end, a desire to simply throw in the towel would be natural. Amber shows us that such feelings are normal and real. We see it as we read. However, we also see that one need not throw in the towel. More than that, we can fight off such desires and fight to have different attitudes altogether.
I think that Amber would agree with me when I say that in such a situation, fighting merely on human power isn’t quite enough. We need a ‘hope’ transplant which replaces our worldly expectations with God’s view on the world and where things are going. Amber’s book reveals that even in pain and suffering, one need not live life as though you were defeated.
This book will hit different people in different ways. One thing that should strike many is what we might call a ‘theology of suffering’ that emerges in the book. You don’t have to look far in the Christian community to find people who believe that if you do everything right and try to please God no harm is going to fall on you. Moreover, if you do have some calamity fall on you, you must have done something to bring it down on yourself. This ‘prosperity Gospel’ with its pernicious converse is not supported in the Christian scriptures. Jesus repudiates it himself and of course the whole book of Job is testament to the fact that not all the harm that falls upon man is because the man did something wrong or because God went out of his way to punish someone.
Such notions are perpetuated in secular society with such cultural phenomena like “The Secret” which says that your thought life drives the types of circumstances that come your way. There is certainly something to be said for our attitudes and expectations evoking certain things (if you wake up crabby, don’t be surprised if you make people around you crabby), but sometimes things just happen. What should the Christian do?
The hard lesson is in 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
This is a hard lesson, and difficult to apply when circumstances wage war against the joy we Christians have in Christ Jesus, but as Amber’s book documents the freedom that is on the other side is immense.
The Church desperately needs to refine its views on suffering and I think Amber’s book will serve as a good place to start for many Christians.
A more obvious value to the book is obviously as an inspiration to those who are struggling against circumstances in their lives. Few of us will have to endure what she had endured and for so long. If her ‘medicine’ worked in her situation, we can have comfort knowing- along with others who have suffered (ie, Job, Paul, etc)- it will ‘work’ in our situation. (This is my terminology, not Amber’s).
For Christians enduring trials and tribulations, and especially young ones, this book is the encouragement they might need.
For non-Christians wondering if there is hope beyond circumstance, even the worse circumstance, Amber assures you there is, and submits her life as evidence for you to consider.