Apr 23, 2014

book review // Open Your Eyes

Open Your Eyes:
10 Uncommon Lessons to Discover a Happier Life
[ Jake Olson and McKay Christensen, PhD]

Most twelve year olds are still stuck in concrete, self-absorbed mentality, focusing on things that are fun and benefits them. Not so for Jake Olson. At twelve, he was thoughtfully planning how to spend his last days with sight before a life-altering surgery would take away this gift I take for granted all to often. Jake was soaking in every opportunity to see with his physical eyes before he would wake up blind, yet after reading his honest and courageous story that is grounded in an unshakable faith in God, I think he is one of the few who actually sees after all. 

Open Your Eyes is co-written by McKay Christensen, who teaches on servant leadership and life-altering change. He brings fresh, uplifting stories (many of which are sports-related) of courage, perseverance, and legacy. In addition, he writes practical lessons to make positive changes that will allow eyes to be opened to the plentiful blessed opportunities around you. A great blend with testimonies by Jake and his family help to make the book less like a motivational pick-me-up and more like a usable guide to living a life of purpose. 

Jake was diagnosed with a rare malignant cancer of the eye, retinoblastoma, as an infant. After multiple surgeries and attempts to conserve his sight, his medical team and parents were left with the excruciating decision: Jake would lose his sight to save his life. But rather than sinking in self-pity and depression [and honestly, would you blame him if he had?], he chose a life of hope, determination, and courage. He inspired countless people, from fellow students who saw him continue his favorite sports [golf and football] to professional athletes and coaches [Seattle Seahawks' Pete Carroll] who were impacted by this lionhearted teenager. 

What encouraged me the most about the book was Jake and his family's statements that were sprinkled throughout the chapters. Their faith in their Father God during such painful seasons of life were a great lesson for me. 

Here are some of my favorite quotes and excerpts from the book:

Art, a quadriplegic who completed a 325 mile wheelchair marathon in record-setting time, was mentioned due to his "amazing spirit and uncommon faith" [p. 27]. He beautifully explains the blessings in struggles: "Struggle and pain . . . were not put here to torment or mock men, but to lift and build them . . . Adversity, pain, and struggle do not challenge the Lord's love for us, they prove it.  To those who love God, the stony, rough way becomes a blessing and an opportunity for miracle after miracle. The rewards are sweeter and the panorama before them more beautiful than the way of ease and instantaneous  miracles. When we are denied immediate relief from our heartache, tears, or tragedy, it is because there is a better way that will teach us more and work for our ultimate good. Some miracles take time." [p. 28].

Jake's parents recall the love that held them together while watching their son go through countless painful treatments and procedures: "Since the moment the doctors told us our infant son had malignant cancer in both eyes and that his left eye needed to be removed to save his life, we have felt the power of God's love. When we heard that, at age twelve, after battling cancer for seven more years, he was going to lose his right eye and would be blind, God's love got us through. Every moment of every surgery required God's love. Every shot, every treatment, the delivery of every chemo drug required God's love. God's love also reached Jake. It was Jake's acceptance of God's love that gave him strength to endure and battle cancer so courageously." [p. 31]

C.S. Lewis is  quoted after Jake shared his belief that God has a great plan for each of us. Lewis once said, "Imagine yourself a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the houses about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of -- throwing out a new wing here, putting an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace" [p35].

What amazing words from sixteen year old Jake: "I trust in God's Word. He has a plan for me. I may not know what it is, but I know it is the best plan" [p. 107].

Open Your Eyes is a great book full of reminders of God's faithfulness even through suffering and trials. His grace does not end when our tough times start. Instead, His grace is sufficient for our darkest days and His love is deeper than our deepest worries and fears. 

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for free through BookLookBloggers in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own


  1. I love a good memoir/biography, so I'll have check this one out soon! Love it when you do book review =)

    1. Let me know if you want me to mail you my copy! I'd be glad to!

    2. That's super sweet of you Elle! Maybe in the fall? I have enough books to get me through the summer =)


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Elle Alice