Where is the hope when you feel deep, gut-wrenching heartbrokenness? For what do you hope when you’re a migrant on the trail, you’ve taken refuge on the sea, you’ve left all behind and set sail for what is unknown ahead? The stories you’ve likely heard are hopeful and harrowing; it seems like each turn and twist could lead to huge rewards of safety, abundance, a life for your children. But each could also lead to danger and potentially further loss. The road feels uncertain, but you must take it; it is the only choice you have left. You venture forward, try to steady your feet, and hope that in the midst of this universe there is indeed a trustworthy, faithful, awake and nearby Presence that will help you on your way.
As you walk you feel truly exposed and shaken to your core; the shields and protections you once thought would bolster you throughout all your days have cracked, crumbled, and finally, collapsed. You’re left bare, hoping for the kindness of others, resilience within yourself, and safe spaces to rest when you cannot take another step.
The people of God, the children of Abraham, the disciples of Jesus: we have always been pilgrim people, but we walk our uncertain paths for different reasons and in different seasons. We leave danger and oppression, journeying towards hoped-for safety. We leave home and warmth for the sake of greater life and wider growth than we could have in our comfort spaces. We depart familiarity for adventure, we flee violence for safety. We start walking because others have left us, we have experienced great loss, opportunities or dreams have crumbled and there’s nothing left for us here. We start walking for the spiritual practice of pilgrimage, hoping to leave behind the predictability of our lives for the experience of encountering the presence of God in a richer and deeper way. We start walking because someone has told us there’s a better life ahead, and we may even prepare ourselves for great and grave dangers in the hope that we might get to the destination of promise foretold.
Where is our hope when we are without temples or rubrics, without a clear map or even an estimated time of arrival? In what and whom do we hope when the road leaves us weary, heartbroken, and dismayed?
In the people of El Salvador, I have encountered hope in a Jesus who weeps, mourns, walks, and grieves, in a Jesus who defends and stands with the oppressed, bloodied, bruised, and broken.
In my Syrian friends, I have encountered through their Islamic faith the hope in Allah who provides for them every step of the way, who leads them onward towards a new sense and creation of home.
In my own heartbreak, I have encountered hope among community as they have held and shepherded me while I stumble along my own path towards healing, wholeness, and rebuilding.
The good news is that God is always here, and Jesus is coming. There is a light that shines in the darkness. While we walk in darkness pursuing light, the light found in the Christ has always and ever will be pursuing us. So may we continue to remind ourselves that hope is not pointless, faith is not fruitless, and that God ever has been and ever shall be on the way, along the way, ever and forevermore with us.
“Jesus asked the Twelve, ‘Do you also want to leave?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, where would we go? You have the words of eternal life.’”
- John 6:67-68a