The Freedom of Hope


“The connection between sorrow and praise, weeping and rejoicing, darkness and light, between shackles and freedom, is hope.”

I bend over Lucy, fluff her purple unicorn pillow, kiss her forehead goodnight, whisper my love, and start to cry.

I picture my friend and she is praying for a phone call, pleading that the words, “We killed your son” really mean he is being held. Alive, waiting.

How many times did she bend over him, tuck him in, kiss him goodnight? And now he didn’t come home after the soccer game. Finally, the message comes that he is alive but taken away, that she won’t kiss his forehead again until certain conditions are met.

I picture another mother who sent her daughter to work thinking she would be a maid.

How many times did she bend over her daughter, tuck her in, kiss her goodnight? And then she didn’t show up at the house. The only trace left, a rumor that she had been sold to a rich man across the water. No one willing to voice what she might have been sold for, everyone knowing she is on the boat while they speculate.

I can’t shake the sadness and Lucy holds my cheeks.

“Why are you crying?”

“Because I can still touch you.” Because it won’t last forever.

Because news like this, of people I love, breaks my heart. Because when it comes relentless, day after day, there is no respite between the darts for the wounds to heal.

A hanging. A murder-suicide. Jailed without trial. Five hours in line for a food card that will never be granted. Girls kept from school. Stones thrown at refugees. Cancer before thirty. Blood clots on the brain.

The shackles of darkness squeeze tight, strangulate.

I go to church the night the boy disappears. I don’t want to, I hardly understand the sermon even after all these years of language study. I don’t think I can face the pain in eyes, etched in deep wrinkles, in twisting hands. The worry. The grasping. But I go.

We sing. Songs from the early 80’s. Songs from before my time in youth group. We sing them over and over, week after week, and they usually feel stale, the joy conjured by force. But tonight there is power in the singing. We sing of victory and hope, of a plan and a sacrifice. Of something Greater and I lean into the old, familiar music, release myself to the words, cast the ache and the why on the Greater.

We are singing off the shackles, bringing in light, we are calling forth freedom.

In the singing I feel the word.


Hope that one day we will be free from these spectacular griefs, hope that one day the shackles will disintegrate into trampled dust beneath dancing feet.

During the sermon I can’t understand, I read Jesus’s words. “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”

I am reminded of another way, different than fumbling through shadows, the way of fighting through but not against the pain and the dying parts of life to the joy on the other side. This is the way of hope.

Hope does not disappoint because I know in whom I have believed.

Hope shines bright, a star over a stable.

The connection between sorrow and praise, weeping and rejoicing, darkness and light, between shackles and freedom, is hope. There it is, a little late, my word for 2013.


 What word or experience frees you to shout off the shackles?


 Photo credit: Employment Now on flickr