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The Cross & the Pen: When I Lay My Isaac Down

  • Eva Marie Everson Contributing Writer
  • Published Oct 06, 2004
The Cross & the Pen: When I Lay My Isaac Down

Welcome to "The Cross & the Pen," Crosswalk.com's author-to-author interview column!

I have a saying and it goes like this: When I grow up, I want to be Carol Kent.

Not that I want Carol's family or ministry or exquisite beauty, but rather that I want to be a woman who, like Carol, is a woman of God who wears grace and wisdom like a lace scarf draped about her strong shoulders.

Carol's beauty goes beyond a smile that can melt a bad mood in a skinny minute or eyes that twinkle with some hidden mischief. Her beauty begins at the very core of her being; that part of her which begins and ends with God. And that's what I want people to see in me.

Recently, Carol and I got together to talk about her new book When I Lay My Isaac Down (NavPress 2004), a work I believe every Christian whose faith has ever been shaken or will ever be shaken should read. As David Jeremiah  (founder of Turning Point Ministries) stated, "[This] is a book about the worst pain that a parent could ever experience and the grace of God that sustains us when that pain never goes away. Carol Kent has laid open her broken heart and proven that triumph can exist in tragedy. This brook will break your heart as it strengthens your faith."

Wanna listen in?

Eva Marie: Carol, let's talk a minute before we get into your book. Would you tell my readers a little bit about you, your family and your ministry?

Carol: I'm the oldest of six who observed our father leave a good paying job in the business world to go back to Bible school and accept God's call on his life to go into the ministry. He led Gene (the man who eventually became my husband) to the Lord when he was 17 years old. We both left for different universities after graduating from high school, and two months after we earned our undergraduate degrees, we walked down the aisle and my preacher daddy "tied the knot." We were dirt poor, had education debts to pay off...but we had lots of love!

I eventually became a speech, drama and English teacher in a public school setting and had many opportunities to influence my students with biblical truth.  Gene went into the insurance business and we were youth directors in a local church.

Five years after our marriage, I gave birth to our first and only child, Jason Paul Kent. I took a leave from teaching and found myself in a neighborhood where many women were raising young children and had many challenges in their marriages. I started my first Bible study around my kitchen table with five neighborhood women and I taught them biblical principles on marriage.

That Bible study spawned a progression that led to where I am today. In time, I noticed many of the women in my Bible class had a story to tell (their personal testimony), but they didn't know how to structure it so it could be shared with others. Some loved the Bible, but didn't know how to teach it. My background includes an undergraduate degree in Speech Education and a master's degree in Communication Arts, so I took what I knew about teaching speech and what I knew about the Bible and launched the Speak Up With Confidence seminar that is now held in many cities across the country and in a few selected cities abroad.

An editor came to one of those seminars and told me she thought this seminar had book potential and asked me to submit a proposal.  It was accepted and my first book was Speak Up With Confidence (first published by Thomas Nelson, now published by NavPress).

God was opening many doors for me as a retreat and conference speaker and my research to prepare for those speaking engagements, along with my quiet time with the Lord produced the material for many more books:  Secret Longings of the Heart, Tame Your Fears, Becoming a Woman of Influence, Mothers Have Angel Wings, Detours, Tow Trucks, and Angels in Disguise, the six book Designed for Influence Bible studies series (co-authored with Karen Lee-Thorp), and my most recent book, When I Lay My Isaac Down.

Eva Marie: You mention When I Lay My Isaac Down, as being your last book. Of course I know the story of how this came about...it's a story of heartache and of learning to believe God's word no matter what. You liken the story of your only son, Jason Paul, to that of Abraham's son, his "only son," as God referred to him. Can you share (briefly) the events that led to writing what had to have been the most difficult words of your life?

Carol: Our only child, Jason, is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and he was a joy to raise. He married a previously married young woman in 1998 who had two beautiful little girls. There were allegations of abuse regarding the biological father of Jason's stepdaughters and the father was seeking unsupervised visits with the girls. As legal options ran out, we saw a downward spiral in our son's emotional well being as his fears for the safety of the girls grew.

In the early hours of October 25, 1999, we received a phone call telling us our son had been arrested for the murder of his wife's first husband. The shock, emotional devastation, and the reality of Jason's arrest was hard to comprehend. We went through two and a half years and seven postponements of the trial.

Eva Marie: How did you come out of your grief and to the decision to write the book?

Carol: As we continued to travel this unexpected path, we realized Abraham was asked to lay his Isaac down. It came to me that all of us have "Isaacs"- and God asks us to make a heart sacrifice - relinquishing our control over a person, situation, or event to the God who loves us more than we love our Isaac. An "Isaac" can be a struggle with infertility, giving birth to a child with a disability, an accident that results in a major life-change, a financial reversal - something thrust upon us at an unexpected moment.

There are also "Isaacs" we choose - letting go of personal expectations, surrendering my ideal life for the reality of what I have, forgiving a person who betrayed my trust, or embracing God's love when He doesn't rescue my hurting child.

I wrote this book because "pain is pain is pain is pain." My husband Gene and I are continuing to live through a great tragedy, but I want readers to learn how to choose "heart sacrifices" where they embrace God's love in the process of releasing their control over the end result of their dreams for themselves or for someone else and I want to encourage them to tell their own stories instead of hiding in false shame and guilt. 

Eva Marie: Carol, what has happened because of your willingness to open your personal wounds for the world to see and write this book?

Carol: I'm discovering that broken people minister to broken people. I'm not ashamed of my tears anymore and I weep with those who weep.

And people are finding the courage to start telling their own stories. In February I was in Oregon speaking and I shared our story at a women's conference. A woman approached me at the book table and whispered, "My husband's been incarcerated for the past 18 years and nobody knows." She paused. "He's getting out in one month." She told me they were going to try to make a "go" of their marriage again. Then she stood to her highest height and with confidence said, "Today, you've given me the courage to start telling my own story. I'm going to quit hiding in my shame any longer."

As we share how our "stretcher bearers" came alongside with prayer and with tangible help during our time of crisis, other people have come up with creative ideas for showing "hands-on" compassion to friends within their sphere of influence who are in need.

We have launched a nonprofit organization called Speak Up for Hope and we are assisting churches and organizations in adopting the prison closest to their location. We don't want to duplicate what other prison ministries have already done successfully, but we are providing encouragement baskets for families of inmates and we are linking educators with chaplains and wardens to provide GED classes and Christian education within the prison walls. 

Eva Marie: Your title includes the tagline: Unshakable faith in unthinkable circumstances. Carol, I believe many of us WANT unshakable faith, but would never desire the unthinkable circumstances, which - of course - builds faith. And I believe Abraham's faith which sustained him when God told him to lay Isaac down came about by the years and years (and years) of trusting God for a son, years and years (and years) of trusting God while walking about, trying to "find a home." How would you respond to someone who says, "I want the faith...but not the circumstances?"

Carol: When a Christian is faced with a crisis so big that the rest of his/her life is forever altered, a choice must be made. We either affirm or reject our faith. We come to a place of saying, "God is sovereign; He makes no mistakes; He is good and trustworthy," or we turn our backs on Him, because on the surface, what He has allowed seems unfair and at times, cruel.

Abraham had "history" with God. He trusted Him so much that even if Isaac died on that altar, He believed God could bring him back to life. In obedience, he "laid his Isaac down." In the original language of the Bible the term for "laying down" as used in the Genesis 22 passage means "a lifting up." It was an act of worship for Abraham to lay Isaac on the altar.

My personal history with God includes the belief that a better day is coming - that this life is not all there is. If I focus on that truth, then I know whether my son walks in freedom in this lifetime or in the next, one day he will indeed walk in freedom. For this season of his life, he is in prison ministry with maximum-security inmates - as an inmate, servicing God from his prison cell.

My purpose in writing this book is not to scare people into thinking that if they commit their lives to God, bad things will happen to them or to their family members. All of our journeys are different. However, there is a cost to being a Christ-follower (James 1:2). The surprising comfort is that when God seems the most absent, He is the most present, and the cup of suffering can become the cup of joy. I would never have chosen this testimony or this unthinkable future for my only child, but I will not waste it. What has happened to us can become a platform upon which we declare hope, faith, and truth to those who are watching our reactions and listening to our story.

I have not yet mentioned in this interview how deeply grieved Gene and I were for the family who lost their son/brother at the hands of our son. We continue to grieve for them. Even though we believe our son's mental state was altered by his extreme fear for the safety of his stepdaughters, God never goes against His Word. What our son did was against the laws of God and man.

Eva Marie: Thank you, Carol...so very, very much.... (And now my readers know why I love you - and Gene, and your entire family - with all my heart!)

For more information on Speak Up for Hope, contact Carol at: www.SpeakUpforHope.org or call toll free 888.987.1212.

Award-winning national speaker, Eva Marie Everson's work includes Intimate Moments with God and Intimate Encounters with God (Cook). She is the author of Shadow of Dreams, Summon the Shadows and Shadow of Light. (Barbour Fiction) She can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at  http://evamarieeverson.com/.