Today my words are to my sisters who know intimately these chains that bind us long after “rescue” – to those who, like me, struggle quietly just to live another day in the midst of the heroic anti-trafficking frenzy.
Recently I marked a day off the calendar that I never wanted to see – it was the anniversary of the date 2 years ago that I spiraled into this intense physical pain and the attached memories and horror I had put behind me over a decade ago.
And I just wanted to quit. Again.
Because I don’t want to be here again. Remembering. And hurting. Fighting for my life.
So, why am I here today, writing about hope when I can barely keep myself from drowning in the post-traumatic pain du jour?
Because as I have moved through the process this time around, I have become keenly aware that there is something “other” that is anchoring me to stay. It is an imprisonment of an altogether different kind, and its chains are – well, kinder somehow.
To my sisters who have known the imprisonment of physical and mental chains – who have been subjected to the horrors of being owned like an animal and treated far worse, and who fight to be free long after your physical rescue, my words are for you today.
Even now some of your names are on my lips with a prayer that you will be strengthened to hope today.
Because we all know rescue is not the same as being free. And though our physical chains are now gone, we remain bound, in so many ways.
Bound to fear.
Bound to silence.
Bound to self-harm.
Bound to pain.
Bound to addiction.
Bound to isolation, lacking any form of family.
Bound to nightmares and sleeplessness.
Bound to a mind that remembers what we’d rather not.
But we are also bound to something more – something other.
And we cannot see with eyes this binding our hearts can just barely perceive. But we know it is there because it is the only reason we are still here. And it is days like today that my heart knows it well:
You and I – we have become prisoners of hope.
And we know that we have become bound to hope by the simple fact that we are still breathing.
Dear Prisoner of Hope, you and I are still here because there is something binding us here, to life. And no matter how many times we contemplate ending it all, we stay, because we have become imprisoned to the hope that somehow there is life beyond all of this.
If I am honest, I know deep down that it takes a courage I just don’t have to stay here in the mess. And it takes strength that I am not really capable of.
It takes clinging to something other than our own strength if we ever hope to be truly free. Because let’s face it – if we could free ourselves from the chains that remain, we would have already done so long ago.
And many days I can’t feel it, but nevertheless it is there – this living, breathing sense of hope that has the power to stay me when I cannot anchor myself to anything.
And here I see that to which I am bound now:
Return to your fortress,
You prisoners of hope.
Even today I declare
That I will restore double to you. (Zechariah 9:12)
These were God’s words to His people who had been captured, enslaved and exiled from their homeland; they are also God’s words to you and to me, because we are now the ones that have been captured, enslaved and exiled. He came precisely for this purpose – to free captives and restore them to life.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3 To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. (Isaiah 61)
Jesus came for one purpose – to free captives. And His goodness stands in stark, undeniable contrast to the evil we have lived and breathed.
But we don’t see it because the evil that stands right in front of our faces and infiltrates our every thought, breath and cell sticks to us, covering us and blinding us to truth.
But here is one simple truth: They came to enslave us. He came to free us.
I know you probably don’t have any good reason to believe He is there – reaching for you.
But what I must tell you is that He is the One behind this hope that binds you to life here when all you want to do is give up and die.
In all of the dark injustice we have easily cast Him as the villain, when, in truth, He has never done anything other than set captives free.
He is the one fighting for me, binding me to Him when I don’t have enough strength to take one more breath.
I have become captive to another, and this captivity is my only way to true freedom.
And He is also the One fighting for you, binding you to Himself when you don’t have enough strength to take one more breath. He is hope. He is the binding that you can’t see, but your heart knows is there.
He is the reason that you are still here.
Sisters, today we have a choice. We will be bound one way or the other. We will be bound to our sadistic captors forever, to the pain and the nightmares, and the fear – against our will – or we will choose to be bound to hope and to the One who always gives us a choice, and whose binding is always only for our freedom.