Friday, December 02, 2011

The Weight Of Slavery -- A Letter To Richard

My Precious Richard,

When dawn breaks gently from the east, it will have been twenty full days since we met face to face on a desolate island of Lake Volta, where you are enslaved.  Dawn is still hours away, it is nearly 4am and sleep can’t reach me.  My bones are aching, my soul is weary, and yet when I close my eyes, all I see is you, halfway across the world, paddling a boat as the dawn breaks, bones aching, soul weary, and I ask myself, how does rest reach you, and what do your eyes see?

They play like a broken reel on repeat in my mind, the brief memories of standing facing you, my heart trying so hard to grasp the overwhelming reality of what my eyes were seeing, my legs trying not to crumble under the weight of your world, my eyes searching yours for a spark of life...  

Surrounded by a group of boys your age, the quietest of the group, you silently spoke volumes about the brutal effects of slavery on a boy of such tender years.  Our attempts to bring a smile to the boys’ faces and convey that we were not a threat was met by curious smiles, laughs and relief by all except you

It was as though you weren’t there, your spirit long ago having checked out in the face of such perpetual darkness.

Did their laughter feel painful to you as you continued to feel invisible?  Did your surroundings cause you to further attempt to disappear into another dimension where nothing could reach you, not pain, joy, or the concept of hope?  I knew all too well that in that situation, feeling nothing was an involuntary defence mechanism...  numbness prolonged survival.

It was in those moments that I realized that we weren’t seeing you, Richard, we were only seeing the shell of the boy whose heart, mind, body and spirit could no longer bear the weight of slavery.  How much longer before the sins of this world crushed you, as they crushed our precious Savior on the cross?  How much longer would you have to endure the darkness man had pulled you under?

From your seat on that wooden bench, what did you hear?  How many times had someone come and attempted to set you free, only to leave empty handed?  How many times had someone come, expressing concern over you, perhaps causing you to grasp on to hope by the little strength you had left, only to lose that grip as the negotiations were thwarted once again by the enemy?  Did hope even flicker this time around, or was it too painful to contemplate that hope was even possible?  

Peace only finds me when my mind takes me back to where you are, and this time, I do what I failed to do the first time we met...  I take you in my arms, gently lift your face until your eyes see mine, and I do everything in my power to pour Christ’s love into your spirit.  There are so many things I failed to share with you, precious boy...  that you are loved and treasured far more than the heart can ever imagine, and that the Lord made you not by the word of His mouth as He made the entire world, but by the work of His hands...  you are Handmade, special, unique, and His beloved, and not one of your tears has fallen outside of the Creator’s care and concern.  

Understanding all too well that these words would have stung and fallen empty on this side of freedom, I would have gently told you never to lose hope, that our only hope is in Christ and Christ alone, that God knew of your suffering and that He would watch over you until the day of your rescue...  knowing in my heart that your first taste of freedom could very well be your first breath of heaven.  Having known the desperation of abuse, we both would have understood all too well if this blessed mercy was all we had the strength left to pray for.

Beyond the eternal Living Water that I would have shared with you, it pains me to know that I had little to offer your immediate physical needs...  to have quenched your thirst and satisfied your hunger would have helped me teach you of the One who sustains us all.  Such things wouldn't have needed translation; feeding His sheep needs no familiar words as it is done through the universal language of love.

Richard, not having held you breaks my heart more than my mere words could ever express.  As a mother of sons who have never outgrown the joy, safety and comfort of a gentle snuggle, a mother’s touch, I long to know that in this lifetime, you have known this kind of love at least once.  Knowing that as a human, a mother and a Christ follower, I failed to share that love with you keeps me awake night, after night, after night.  I can't help but wonder if you even know to dream of such things -- when was the last time you were held, Richard, and do you know a mother's love?  

Where is your mother as you continue to languish here on this island, and does it tear her up to be apart from her son like it tears me up to have had to leave you behind?  

While it's crushingly painful to see you and carry you with me everywhere I go, I pray that pain never lessens, never heals, never becomes numb by the world’s endless pressure to fit subtly in the deceptive trap of the middle ground.

I simply and ever-so-complexly can not choose to return to the life I once knew.

No, I beg the pain to remain, the pain that serves to remind me that Jesus calls on us to live radically, to eschew the world’s dangerous blindness and to open our eyes to what breaks His heart.  

You are now mine, Richard, not having grown in my body, but having been indelibly engraved upon my heart...  you, chosen for me, and I, for you.

You have become, to me and to many, the personal, heartbreaking face of slavery.   

Even though my words may never reach you on this side of the veil, your voice has been heard, Richard, your voice has been heard around the world, and it will not be extinguished until every man, woman and child you represent has been set free.  

May God deal with me ever so severely if I should fail you again.

Love, beyond measure,


"It is the children the world almost breaks who grow up to save it."  -- Wess Stafford, Compassion International