May 8, 2013
I’ve always loved to read, but I’m not great at remembering books after I read them. Some books, though, are memorable. A year or so ago, I read the book Room by Emma Donoghue, a story told from the perspective of a five-year-old boy who is being held captive, along with his mother, in a small room. He was born in the room, so has known nothing else. Though his mother’s resources are extremely limited, she creatively adapts and helps him experience as much of a full life as possible. It was one of the most gripping novels I’ve read in years and I have not forgotten it.
I thought about Room when the news unfolded in Cleveland this week of the liberation of three young women and one child from hellish captivity. There are aspects to this story which are compelling in an almost magnetic way. There is the next-door neighbor who believed that helping his neighbor was the most natural thing in the world to do. And there are many unanswered questions, some of which, one hopes, stay unanswered, for the sake of the privacy and health of the victims.
I find myself thinking, most of all, about the woman everyone was most surprised to find, the woman fewer people missed and looked for. The third woman. The woman whose name was not as well-known. We’ve witnessed welcome home parties for two of the other women – balloons, large banners, tear-streaked faces and bear hugs. Who’s throwing a party for the third woman?
A parable is being told and re-told in our city this week. It’s the story of a good Samaritan: once again, just as Jesus told it, the person least likely to be cast in the role. It’s the story of children who have come home after a long time away, and parents who never gave up hope. It’s the story, too, of cruelty that seems worse because it happened in our own backyard.
And for all three of the women who were found this week in Cleveland: these words from Isaiah 43 remind us that God knows each of our names, God knows where we are, and God knows when we’re missing, and God rejoices when we come home:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior… you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you…Do not fear, for I am with you…”