“I don’t read, I watch.” This is the credo of many a film critic. Truth be told, movie reporters read a great deal. And occasionally we discover a book that no film could match. Grace Is Enough (B & H Books) by Willie and Maylo Aames is such a discovery. I knew the actor Willie Aames from Eight Is Enough and Charles In Charge. I knew he and his wife had moved to Kansas City, where I now call home. And I knew they were Christians and responsible for the Bibleman and Misty Files videos. I had no idea, however, of the hellish existence they had made for themselves in their early years through drug use, or the indescribable pain that had been inflicted on them by family and others who had stolen their childhood.
The first three quarters of their book may be the most difficult biography I have ever read. It grieves, it angers, it frustrates. Indeed, several times I just wanted to put it down rather than read of the horrors people can inflict on one another. Don’t let that description keep you from examining their book, however. For I believe the remaining chapters will enrich your spiritual walk.
In their time of deepest despair, while Willie was in the midst of Charles In Charles, Christ was revealing Himself. Patiently, lovingly, Christ started touching their hearts, letting the embattled couple know who was really in charge.
Both Willie and Maylo Aames speak of the child abuse, both physical and sexual, that maimed their childhood. But there came a point when both authors realized they needed to come to terms with those who had inflicted such wrongs on them. They knew to find everlasting peace, they had to do what Mark 11:25 instructs forgive, that you might be forgiven. Willie and Maylo’s words of encouragement reminded this reader that sometimes forgiveness takes time, and that by seeking and trusting Jesus, forgiveness can be achieved.
Grace is Enough does not end with all earthly problems resolved for the Aames family. That said, you can easily read into those final chapters God’s presence in their lives. The Holy Spirit used this book to draw me closer to our Lord through their unvarnished witness. I believe it will be of such help to you. What’s more, their courage and forthrightness may touch those in need of spiritual and mental healing.
I was privileged to speak with Willie and Maylo. Here are brief excerpts from our conversation.
In the book you mention how Scott Baio (the star of Charles in Charge) prevented you from getting a substantial raise while doing his show. How are you able to forgive those who have wronged you, either financially or physically?
Willie: Well, I was very upset with the situation with Scott, because Maylo and I were trying to buy a home. I couldn’t see where he had any say over how much I got paid, and yeah, that really affected our relationship. But after a while, you just have to drop it. It is what it is. And I look at my life and I look at the things God has given me. He’s always been faithful to give me what I need, when I need it. And most of the time if I had had it earlier, the money would have been harmful to me. So I look at that stuff and look at my own life and have to say that I would not want to hold any of that in. It wouldn’t be any good for me and it certainly isn’t any good for the relationship.
Maylo: To forgive, let’s say, my mother, for the ultimate betrayal in my life, it was a long process. I told God I’m blinded by my rage. In my flesh I didn’t want to forgive her. But after a period of time I began to realize that God did not create her for that kind of evil and that His heart was broken over her. God calls me to forgive her. And the way I do that is by putting Him in front of her and saying, “I’m going to have to look at you through Christ.” I’ve gotten to the point where I feel bad for her. “What went wrong with you? What happened to you that you would do these things to others?” That was the beginning of forgiveness.
You speak of mind-crippling depression in the book. Has having to dredge up the past caused the depression to return?
Willie: The hardest part for me was letting my parents know what happened to me as a kid [referencing a sexual abuse as a youngster by an older acquaintance]. I hadn’t told anybody about that, not even Maylo, until it was written in the book. For me, it hasn’t led to depression because I’ve dealt with it so much over the years. But I had to write about it. It was necessary for us to be brutally honest so we could relate to those in need.
Maylo: I have spoken so many times to women’s groups over the years about these matters [Maylo suffered from both physical and sexual abuse], so I was fine writing about it. I just wanted, like Willie said, to be honest. I wanted to be honest for other women, so that they knew there was hope for them.
Are you hearing stories of how the book is affecting people?
Maylo: Yeah, we do. We get emails all the time. Somebody in Mexico just read the book and it had been a help to her.
Willie: It’s nice to know that the message has really gotten out the fact that there is always hope. I feel blessed.
How is your daughter dealing with the frankness of the book?
Maylo: She’s awesome. She’s a very upfront, honest person, with a great sense of humor, and I’ll tell you that even in the small Christian school that she goes to, these kids have already been through more than most in the older generation. She is so aware that this house belongs to Christ. She’s seen my mother and what seeking after the things of the flesh can lead to.
Willie: The other thing is that her friends look at us as real. They’ll talk to us when they won’t talk to anyone else.
Maylo: I’ve had some of her friends’ parents say, “there are some things that my daughter won’t tell me and I want you to know that you can keep her confidence. You don’t have to tell me.” That speaks well of the parents.
Does the addiction ever let go or do you still struggle with the temptation of drug use?
Maylo: You know, I never think about that. Now, I’m more addicted to naps.
Willie: I just have one of those addictive personalities. I can get addicted to anything. Right now, it’s oranges. I’ll eat seven oranges at a time. It’s just my personality. I don’t think it ever goes away. I think it’s a part of your makeup. And because of that, you have to be vigilant. You have to be watching all the time, because when you’re not, that’s when you’re gonna get nailed.
Please lift Willie and Maylo up in prayer. With this book they are ministering to a world in pain and I have never known a devoted minister who didn’t come under attack by the enemy. And I doubt there is a greater deed than lifting up others in need of His protection, provision and grace.