Out of the Depths - Help Clergy in Ministering to Victims of Crime
by Richard Pollard Lord
with Janice Harris Lord, LCSW, ACSW/LPC
Janice Harris Lord, LCSW, ACSW/LPC
My marriage to Dr. Richard (Dick) Lord, the second for both of us, felt like a match made in heaven in many ways. The one way I want to tell you about today, however, is how our professions supported and supplemented one another.
I am a clinical social worker and crime victim advocate. After receiving my Master’s Degree in Social Work in 1979, I served victims of child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, victims of alcohol-and-other-drug-related vehicular crashes, and those whose loved ones died by homicide and suicide. The personal spirituality of many of these victims was deeply affected by what had happened to them. I am a Christian, but as a licensed clinician, I was careful not to impose my spiritual beliefs on my clients. As they brought up their spiritual concerns, many focused on what they perceived as inadequate spiritual support from their faith communities, I could understand a little of what they were telling me.
So, Dick and I began working together as a team both with the victims of crime community and the faith community at the local, state, and national levels. We spoke at many conferences of professionals in both communities as well as conferences for the direct victims of crime. We sometimes presented individually, but consistently worked together preparing for those conferences and relied on one another extensively in editing publications we wrote.
This document grew and changed over the years, and thousands of print copies were distributed at conferences and sent to individuals who requested it. We always spoke of doing more with it, but Dick died unexpectedly a few years ago after getting bitten by a mosquito and dying of West Nile virus.
So with gratitude to my beloved, I am now offering it to you at no cost, with the desire that it continue its usefulness. I hope that faith leaders will find it edifying. I hope that victims of crime will continue to share with their own faith leaders.
Janice Harris Lord
The Victim of Violence and the Question of Forgiveness: A Pastor’s Journey 5
(Published on October 9, 1991, reprinted with permission from Christian Century)
Out of the Depths 10
Reflections of a Pastor’s Difficulty in Working with Crime Victims 12
What Victims Want to Say to Clergy: 13
A Collection of Feelings Expressed by Crime Victims
Judeo-Christian Scriptures 16
On Suffering 19
The Desert Shall Bloom 21
A Journey 23
Few things tax the resources and skills of clergy and the religious community more than ministering to the needs of victims of violence. The word “victim” is understood both as one who has had violence done to him or her and as one who loves or loved the person victimized. It may be a woman who has been raped, an older person who has been terrorized, or a teenager who has been killed by a drunk driver. It also includes those family and friends who care deeply for the victims.
To become a victim of violence often adds rage to sadness, guilt, and despair. Very ugly emotions can erupt. Even close family and friends want to back away. We, as clergy, and our congregations have a hard time knowing how to be helpful. It’s difficult to know what to say and do when so few have experienced the same trauma.
The religious community, however, should be the last institution to back away. Often, the most fundamental issue raised by victimization is the religious question of the meaning and value of life. If the religious community is ever to have something to say, it must be at a time when a person cries “out of the depths.”
Much Christian Scripture, from the Psalms to Jesus dying on the cross, is written “out of the depths.” The materials collected here are gathered from listening to victims talk of their attitudes about religion and the church as they moved toward recovery from victimization.
Some victims say they don’t think they could have survived without their faith and the community that nurtured that faith. Others say their recovery journey was made more difficult because of things said and done by their faith community. No doubt, the hurtful things were intended to help, but they hurt and hindered recovery.
The words “Oh, God!” are sometimes spoken by human beings as affirmation of the goodness of life and sometimes as anguish at the limitations of life. Most congregations do better at expressing the affirmation of life than they do at acknowledging the limitations of life. We are more comfortable giving thanks to God for life than uttering our cry of despair over the pain of life. Yet both are firmly rooted in Judeo-Christian tradition and nearly all other religious traditions.
It is important that those who experience the dark side of life feel that they have a place in the public worship of God and the fellowship of the congregation. It is hoped that this material will stimulate the religious community’s imagination to encourage the public expression of the dark side of life. The feelings of grief may be personal, but mourning (the outward expression of grief) can be public. The religious community is critical to the public expression individual or group grief.
Out of the Depths
You or someone you love has been assaulted, raped, robbed . . .
Perhaps killed by a murderer or a drunk driver.
And you have never felt hate like you feel it now. Anguish consumes your soul.
It was not an accident or a mistake. It was someone’s fault . . . a choice.
When you think of the offender, he or she is not a person with a name, a family, problems.
You think of that person only as a violent intruder.
You may feel anger, hate, rage from deep within.
And you think about justice.
“To each his due.”
“He should be hurt as deeply as he has hurt.”
While pure justice is unattainable, something within you cries for recognition that what happened is wrong, that someone is guilty, that judgment is pronounced.
Justice should not be glossed over. What has happened is abnormal. Your dark emotions are normal.
Even the writers of Scripture knew rage, anguish, doubt.
“Oh God, break the teeth in their mouths . . . Let them be like the snail which dissolves in the slime. The righteous shall rejoice when he sees vengeance; He will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked” it says in Psalms 58.
It is believed by most theologians that the Book of Job was the earliest written book in the Hebrew Bible. God’s servant, Job, weary in his own victimization, laments, “I will speak in anguish of my spirit. I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.”
Jeremiah disputes God to his face, “Why do the wicked prosper? How long must the earth mourn?”
Jesus, himself, cries from the cross, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
And they were not silenced. God heard them. God shared their pain.
But what about the offender? How will you address that person, if not in person, then in your own mind?
Let us consider “With HONESTY.” If you are to have integrity, you must be honest.
You must be honest with yourself, with your friends, with the offender, with God.
It is dishonest, before others and before God. to pretend to be loving and kind when you do not feel loving and kind.
With honesty, let us then consider FORGIVENESS. You are told you should be able to offer it . . .now. Reconciliation with God and neighbor is a good thing. Anger can destroy you.
But forgiveness with integrity must reach both ways. You can’t do it alone. It must be mutual.
If there is no remorse, if there is no regret, if there is no repentance, then how can there be forgiveness?
And now the tougher question: What if there is remorse . . . regret . . .. repentance . . . even restitution?
Forgiveness with integrity is still the answer.
Perhaps the best you can offer is:
God is merciful and hears your cry. But at this point in my life, I choose to be honest. I cannot forgive you for what you have done. A casual or glib announcement of forgiveness is, for me, dishonest, a barrier to healing, cheap grace. Perhaps, in time, I can forgive you. Perhaps not. Now, I can’t say. Reconciliation with integrity comes to a few. I am not obliged to sooth your soul. I offer you only what I can.
God will deal justly with the offender. Perhaps the State will. But you are not responsible for the offender’s eternal destiny.
On the other hand, what are you to do with the anger which still abides, which can consume, which can block the future?
Let not your anger bind you to the past, to the offense, or to the offender.
Instead, channel your energies into the present and future. Relieve your own despair by helping others overcome theirs.
Reach out with a treasured “I understand something of what you are going through” to other sufferers, because you do. Stand with another who is suffering because you are.
And thereby, turn the ashes of your experience, into a kindling of dignity for yourself and compassion for others.
Reflections of a Pastor’s Difficulty in Working with Crime Victims
They want answers,
But they know there are none.
They want to be with people,
But they want to be alone.
They want people to understand,
But they know no one does.
They want to be loved,
But they react angrily.
But they push.
Help me, O Lord,
To Listen more than to speak;
To be more than to do;
To share more than to give.
For it is
In listening that they will hear;
In being that they will heal;
In sharing that they will receive.
As deeply as I cry out “Why?” I know there is no rational explanation. My “Why?” is more a longing for God to hold me and comfort me in God’s arms than it is a question I want answered. I don’t want you to try to give me answers. What has happened is absurd. It is surely not as God intended life to be. It doesn’t make sense. God didn’t cause it. The devil didn’t cause it. It could not have been God’s will.
Therefore, let us together try to explain the cause of the tragedy as factually and honestly as possible. I want God and you, as my pastor, as companions who will stand with me in my longings… not as sources of explanation.
Don’t take away my reality.
My pain seems unbearable to me and yet, considering what has happened, it feels right that I should be in pain. I know it is uncomfortable for you. I know you want to take it away. But you can’t, so please don’t try. The pain is a sign to me of how much I have loved and how much I have lost. If I have doubts, if I am angry, understand that these are normal reactions to a very abnormal situation. I will not always be like this, but I am now. These are my feelings. Please respect them.
Help me deal with forgiveness with integrity.
Understand that, if my faith is important to me, I will struggle with the issue of forgiveness. I will remember all the times I’ve been told that I must forgive. And yet, something deep within me resists forgiving someone who has shown no remorse or willingness to change.
I wonder if I am even the appropriate one to forgive the person who harmed or injured me or someone I love. I don’t feel obligated to forgive; I don’t even feel that I have the right to forgive in these circumstances. Yet, I feel uncomfortable in my resistance to forgive.
I am also troubled by the difference between forgiving and forgetting. I desperately want my loved one who has been killed or injured to be remembered. I strongly resist anything that threatens the memory of one who has died. Therefore, even if I do decide at some point that I can honestly and with integrity offer forgiveness, please don’t ask me to forget what happened. It is impossible to forget, and, to me, it is very undesirable as well. Even Jesus said “Remember me” before dying on the cross.
Understand that forgiveness is far more than just saying three words, “I forgive you.” If I say the words, they must be true. I must speak the words from the depths of my very soul with absolute integrity. Don’t push me to say the words just to satisfy you. I will only say them if I come to really mean them.
Just as a one-year- old child learns to walk with someone close by to steady him when he stumbles, stay close enough to me that I can reach out and steady myself on you when I need to. Understand my need to grieve, my need to withdraw, my need to agonize, but remind me that you’re there to lean on when I want to share my pain.
Remember me . . . for a long time.
This loss will always be part of me. I’ll need to talk about it for years to come. Most people will be tired of hearing about it after a period of time. So, please be the person who will invite me to share my feelings about this after others have moved on to other concerns. If my loved one has died, mention his or her name to me from time to time and let us remember together.
Don’t be frightened of my anger.
Anger isn’t nice to be around. However, it is part of what I’m feeling now, and I need to be honest about it. I won’t hurt myself or anybody else. I know my anger doesn’t threaten God. People got angry in the Bible. Even God got angry at certain things. The one to worry about is the one who has experienced violence but hasn’t become angry.
Listen to my doubt.
You stand for faith, and I want you to, but listen to my doubt so you can hear the pain that doubt is expressing. Like anger, doubt is not pleasant to hear, so people will try to talk me out of it. But for right now, let me express the questions which are measured by the depth of the loss I feel. If I cannot doubt, my faith will have no meaning. It is only as I move through doubt that a more meaningful faith may be able to develop.
My progress will not be steady. I’ll slip back just when everyone thinks I’m doing so well. Be one to whom, on occasion, I can reveal my weakness and regression. Let me be weak around you. I’ll make it, but it will take much longer than most people think. I’ll need your patience.
Remind me this isn’t all there is to life.
My pain and my questions consume me. I can think and feel nothing else. Remind me that there is more to life than my understanding and my feelings. Speak the word “God,” not to dull my pain but to affirm life. I don’t want God as an aspirin but as a companion who shares my journey. Stay beside me and remind me of that Eternal Presence which can penetrate even my grief.
(Abrahamic Faiths [Judaism, Christianity, Islam]) Eternal God, who hears the cries of your people, who knows our suffering and who comes to share our pain, come to us who are too tired to climb to heaven, too broken to stand and praise you, too weak to walk in your way. Come and share with us your strength, your energy, your love. Come to us and create us anew. Come to us and heal our brokenness. Come to us and make your dwelling place in our hearts. Amen.
(Abrahamic Faiths) O God, we want to be strong, but we are weak. We want to have faith, but we doubt. We want to have hope, but we despair. We don’t like the anger and confusion we feel. Sometimes we don’t like You. Sometimes we don’t like ourselves. But we know you are not afraid of our feelings. We know you do not turn away from us. Hear us, O Lord. Look upon us. Remember us O Lord God. Amen.
(Christian) O Lord Jesus Christ, who in the darkness of the Garden of Gethsemane knew loneliness, doubt, and fear, be close to us in our night hours. Thou, whose disciples would not stay awake and share Your agony, stand beside us throughout our night. Thou who did sweat blood in the fact of death, be near to us as we live under the shadow of death. Amen.
To have one’s emotions expressed openly in a spiritual service is to legitimatize them. If it is acceptable to speak my feelings in God’s presence, then I can own them and deal with them rather than suppress and deny them.
Following are three Psalms reflecting anger, doubt, and trust. It is effective do have the congregation read these aloud, either in unison or responsively with the leader reading one line and the people the next. It can be helpful, after the Psalm is read out loud, to allow for a time of meditation when persons can “fill in the blanks” and individualize the Psalm.
Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
Deliver me from my enemies, Oh my God,
Protect me from those who rise up against me.
Deliver me from those who work evil,
And save me from bloodthirsty men.
Awake to punish all the nations;
Spare none of those who plot evil.
For the cursing and lies which they utter
Consume then in wrath, consume them till they are no more.
But I will sing of Thy might;
For Thou has been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress.
Deliver me from _________________, O my God.
Protect me from those who ___________________________
Awake to punish ___________________________
Spare none of those who ______________________________
For the cursing and lies which they utter, consume then in __________________
Consume them till they are _____________________.
But I will sing of thy __________________________
For Thou has been to me a _____________________.
All this has come upon us,
Though we have not forgotten Thee,
Or been false to Thy covenant.
Our heart has not turned back,
Nor have our steps departed from Thy way,
That Thou should have broken us in the place of jackals,
And covered us with deep darkness.
For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
Our body cleaves to the ground.
Rise up, come to our help!
Deliver us for the sake of thy steadfast love.
________________ has come upon us,
Though we have not _______________
Or been false to ____________________
For our soul is ____________________
Our body is _______________________
Rise up, come to our _____________________.
Deliver us for the sake of _______________________
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore, we will not fear though the earth should change,
Though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
God is our _________________and ________________,
A help in _____________________
Therefore, we are not ________________________________.
The Lord of host is ________________________,
God is our _________________________.
(Christian) New Testament
“And Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple; and He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold pigeons; and He would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.”
We learn in this story that, when people are using and hurting others, anger is appropriate. Indeed, there are situations in life when, if we do not become angry, something is wrong. The question is not, “Should we become angry?” but “At what do we become angry?”
“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”
Even understanding that this cry of Jesus from the Cross is the first line of Psalm 22, which ends in a triumphant note, it stands as a statement with which most victims can identify. Again, the question is not whether we should feel despair, but whether it is expressed within the religious community. Within the context of belief, must it be repressed in order for the victim to remain a part of the religious community?
“Just art Thou in these Thy judgments,
Thou who is and was, O Holy One.
For men have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
and Thou hast given them blood to drink.
It is their due!
Yea, Lord God the Almighty,
True and just are Thy judgments!”
While the images of Revelation are cosmic in nature, they do deal with the violence of evil on earth in such a way that victims can readily identify with them, especially in the hope for God’s judgment and justice. The Bible is aware, and certainly in the Book of Revelation, that the world is not a “nice” place to live. Throughout the Bible, people have to deal with violence and injustice, and they know the whole range of dark emotions that accompany that experience. Therefore, the Bible offers an invaluable resource in allowing people to deal in a constructive way with the dark side of their lives. God is not afraid of the darkness. God is not threatened by our anger or doubt. It is in bringing this aspect of life, which for the victim is dominant, into the public worship of God that there is offered the best hope for the Light to shine once again in the victim’s darkness.
“Behold, I cry out, Violence! But I am not answered. I call aloud, but there is no justice.” Job 19:7
The cry of the innocent sufferer is one of the most ancient and profound cries within humanity. It is a balancing cry when faith in a loving Creator is proclaimed. Whenever belief is affirmed in “God the father, almighty, maker of heaven and earth,” the pervasive suffering which humans endure is also acknowledged. The question “Why” is persistently raised. Why is there such pain? Why such injustice in life? Why, God, why?
As we listen to the Bible respond to this question, we discover two things. The first is that the Bible has no answer to this question. It gives no explanation for the problem of suffering that might cause a person to say, “Now I understand.”
Jesus was explicitly asked this question, and He never gave an answer. “Do you think that the eighteen killed when the tower in Siloam fell were worse than the others who lived in Jerusalem?” they asked Jesus. He replied “No” (Luke 13:4). “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was been born blind?” (John 9:3). Jesus answered, “Neither.” Jesus never offered an explanation for innocent suffering. Instead, He spoke of God working in a healing way in the midst of suffering.
When people ask questions of cause and effect, they should be dealt with in as objective a way as possible. Questions of what caused something are scientific questions that should be dealt with in that manner. The tower fell because the walls were not constructed strong enough to support the weight of the roof. The man was born blind because the optic nerve did not develop properly while in embryo.
While it is tempting to use God as an explanation, it is best to rely on science for that purpose. When we are dealing with cause-and-effect questions, we should be as factual and specific as possible. “Why did Granddad die?” “He died because he was very old and his heart wore out.” When a scientific question is asked, a scientific answer should be given.
Indeed, we find that suffering persons resent someone who tries to take away their pain with an easy explanation or a simple consolation. Words intended to stop the hurting are resented. That kind of language is usually understood as our own uneasiness with the pain rather than willingness to share the burden of the pain.
The Bible does not provide an answer for the question of suffering. But it does affirm that “God is with us.” Scripture calls upon us to be open to God as an abiding presence in our lives. In other words, God is understood relationally and not mechanically. The question is not, “What is God doing?” but “Where is God?”
God, speaking to Moses on Mt. Sinai, said, “I have seen the afflictions of my people . . . and have heard their cry: I know their suffering . . . .” (Exodus 3:7). This image is of a God who cares so much for His people’s pain that it becomes God’s pain; their struggle is God’s struggle.
This Biblical image of God is bold. In most religions and in philosophy, God is seen as perhaps affecting the world by creating, ordering, etc., but God is not affected by the world. Some scholars see this as a lack of perfection in God. According to that way of thinking, for God to be perfect means there must be no change in God. If God is different today than yesterday, it implies that God was not perfect yesterday. Perfection means completeness, and that means no change from one condition to another. However, in the Bible, God’s perfection is seen not as having some completed condition that must not change, but in being open and including all of the world in the Divine life. Perfection is being completely open, not completely finished. God’s perfection means that absolutely everything makes a difference to God. “But even the hairs of your head are numbered.” (Matthew 10:30)
God, in Judeo-Christian tradition, is One who knows suffering. God knows what it is to lose a dearly beloved son. The Christian faith hinges on the grave injustice of an innocent man being executed. The Jewish faith speaks over and over of God’s people being broken, defeated, and taken into captivity. This faith recognizes the unfairness and struggles that make up life.
In all of this, God is not seen as a magician who protects from struggles, but as a presence that affirms in the midst of the struggles.
One might say, “So what?” “What difference does it make that God is with me?” In any relationship of love, a person does not evaluate the relationship in terms of its usefulness. Those who love do not ask what’s in it for themselves. They do not ask what the loved one can do for them. Love is a relationship that creates energy, enables hope, and offers a sense of direction to life. Lovers do not speak about the usefulness of love. They just love.
At time of crisis, a person does not need their lover to solve the problem but to walk beside them. The love does not stop because the problem cannot be solved. Caring and sharing go on.
The Bible affirms the reality God in our lives, standing with us and walking with us through the suffering. It affirms that there is more to life than our questions and our problems. It affirms a Presence that creates energy and healing amid the despair and brokenness.
It means that there are always new possibilities before us. Our future is not determined by our past but by the freshness of God’s love, which, like the manna in the wilderness, is gathered new each day.
The Bible may not give us the answer we want, but it does assure us of love; and who wouldn’t rather have love than answers.
“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and bloom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing.” Isaiah 35:1,2
Jerusalem had been destroyed. The temple burned. The descendants of David imprisoned. All the signs of meaning and hope for Israel were devastated. This was not a mythological story but an event that happened before the Hebrews’ eyes. It is a historical fact that in 587 BC, the Babylonian army demolished the moral and psychological foundations of Israel.
Amazingly, during this time of utter despair, Israel’s prophets spoke of restoration. They prophesied a time when Jerusalem would be inhabited again, and there would be rejoicing and singing in its streets. The temple would be rebuilt, and praise and prayers would be offered to the One who continually renews life. A moral and political order would be re-established, and life would continue for God’s people.
In times of despair, we wonder how persons can give despairing people a vision of a society that will be restored. Moreover, we wonder how those people responded to the vision and began the hard work of restoring. While God promised new life in a time of barrenness, the people had to do the work.
God didn’t haul the stones to rebuild the walls of the city. The men carried the stones. The women found food to prepare. The children learned prayers. Restoring what someone else built is not grand and glorious work. The names of those who lifted the stones into place are not mentioned in the Bible. But we would not have our Jewish, Christian, Muslim monotheistic tradition had they not struggled with those boulders.
We have inherited a noble tradition of justice from those who founded our country as well as the ancient Greeks and Hebrews. We did not come up with the idea that “all men are created equal.” We did not create a constitution, but “We the people ... ordain(ed) and establish(ed)” it.
Today, our task is not to look back with admiration to those who created our rich tradition, but to do the work of restoring the ideals of our past. In the grind of ordinary life, the ideals of the past are never fully realized. Sometimes they are broken. It is our task to nurture, to enhance, to fulfill, to further weave into the fabric of our everyday life, the vision of justice for all.
Some of us remember when drunk driving was a traffic offense, not a crime. The author of Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, was killed by a drunk driver who never spent a night in jail. Many of us can remember when victims of crime were told, “Tough luck – he or she was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.” We remember when rape victims were asked what they were wearing.
When we reflect on how callously victims were treated thirty years ago, we wonder how that could have been. But our task now is not to think about the past when justice was lacking, but to recognize and strengthen the weakness in the system today. Thirty years from now, what will they look back to and ask, “How could they?”
When Israel was promised that the desert of their lives would bloom again, it was not a promise of what God was going to do for them, but a vision of who they could become. So we look to the past, not just with respect, but to gain clarity about who we can still become.
It is easy to become discouraged when trying to re-establish an ideal in everyday life. Attempting that in a huge society is especially challenging. It can feel that there is so much resistance, so much indifference, that there is little hope. But that is exactly where we hear a Word from beyond ourselves that shows us a vision of what we are working toward. We may never completely realize the vision, but we know what we are moving toward. Guided by that vision means that our work is never a job. It is a calling.
Around 1200 B.C., the Hebrews had become a people without hope.
All they knew about themselves was that they were slaves. They belonged to Pharaoh, King of Egypt, who was the most powerful man on earth.
They had no identity of name or place. They did not know where they came from or where they were going. They had no past. They had no vision of a future. All they knew was that they were victims, and no one could do anything about it.
Then a man named Moses came along and reminded them that they were God’s children. They were the descendants of Abraham, the One the Hebrew slaves could call “Father.” Judaism (and later, Christianity and Islam) trace their roots to Father Abraham.
The idea of being God’s children was so incredible, when God first revealed it to Moses, that even he didn’t believe it at first. But Moses obeyed and told the Hebrews that they had a future. He promised them that they would eventually live in their own land as free human beings.
The Hebrews were highly skeptical. To tell someone who is suffering about a fairy tale life they might live someday seems like a cruel trick. The idea that a gang of runaway slaves could find a new life in their own land was unbelievable. When people are in bondage, whether political, psychological, economical, physical or whatever, the bondage controls them. They have no sense of the future being different.
Bondage could be defined as loss of hope. Bondage means no hopeful possibilities, only bare necessities. There are no dreams, only nightmares. There is no light, only darkness.
What does that have to do with serving victims of crime, whether as clergy, mental health professionals, justice professionals, or victim advocates? The most important thing to offer a victim is hope, even when they are in too much pain to experience it. Their situation is not hopeless. A path, a future, a new possibility awaits them, even though their lives will never be the same as before.
Timing is also important. Talking about hope too soon can feel like discounting the present pain. Hope may come in the form of therapy or social services that slowly help the victim or survivor begin to develop a new understanding of him/herself. Hope can derive from a community of voices who come together to speak out against crime. Hope may come from community agencies that provide various resources as new possibilities. Hope may arise from a faith community that affirms that there is more to life than what has been done to a person. Wherever it originates, if offered at the right time (later more than sooner), a word of hope enables one to undertake the journey of developing new life.
The scriptures are not naïve about the challenges of the hope journey. The Hebrews who followed Moses out of Egypt all died before the 40-year journey was completed. But their children did complete the journey, believing, along with quite a bit of grumbling, that new possibilities awaited them and their own children.
Hope gives the journey direction. Hope guides the pilgrimage, providing meaning that is not determined by an arrival date. So long as we can love one another and seek justice throughout the journey, we contribute in our own small ways to that grandest of human visions where all life is respected, and justice prevails.
To invite travelers who have been crushed by life to join us on the journey is to empower them. It is not a pill to be taken, but a beckoning to join us in a common vision.
To catch that vision and undertake that journey is to diminish cynicism and increase hope. It is an invitation to a more free and responsive life. Let us arise and be on our way.
“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is mystery. Today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”