I've got a lot of friends in law enforcement. They don't usually show a lot of emotion. But the Cleveland police chief said today: "Yes, law enforcement people do cry."
I think some of them did. When three women, missing for a decade, were suddenly found alive. They'd been imprisoned in a nondescript house by a man who kidnapped them years ago. And living horrors we may never fully know.
A neighbor heard screams coming from that house and went to investigate. A woman locked inside cried, "I've been kidnapped...I want to leave right now." It took kicking in the door - but he got her out. Later, the police brought out the two other kidnapped captives.
The frantic 911 call from victim Amanda Berry was riveting. "Help me, I'm Amanda Berry. I've been missing for ten years and I'm out here. I'm free now." No wonder police officers cried.
As I've watched this powerful story unfold, it's reminded me of some things I can't afford to forget. Through people at the heart of this story.
Like people who refuse to give up on the loved one they've lost. Like Amanda Berry's mom, who refused to believe it was hopeless. She just kept her daughter's picture and story in front of people...and prayed relentlessly. Amanda's mom didn't live to see her prayers answered - but we all did.
A lot of us have an "Amanda." Someone who, for one reason or another, seems hopelessly gone. Emotionally. Spiritually. Physically.
But the celebration in Cleveland shouts, "Never stop fighting for that person you love." Reach out to them. Love them when they give you no reason. Pray for God to do what only He can do. Keep the porchlight on.
I love that story where Jesus comes upon the funeral procession of a young man. The Bible says He saw the grieving mother and "His heart went out to her." Then He did what only He could do. He brought her son back to life. And here's the best part: "Jesus gave him back to his mother" (Luke 7:15 ).
He's still doing things like that. Restoring lost loved ones to the people who care for them. That's the hope that keeps us fighting for them. As long as there's breath, there's hope.
Of course, a key player in freeing the Cleveland captives is that neighbor. Who, disregarding the risks, jumps in to help someone in trouble.
Somewhere on our "street," we all know someone like that. Behind a façade that looks fine, they may be living a nightmare. Desperately needing someone who will care about them. And listen. Someone who will look for the needs behind their needs. Who will be the voice and face of Jesus for them.
And then there's that prisoner who's desperate to be free. Whose only hope is a rescuer. That's where I show up in the picture. That was me. And lots of folks like me.
In a very dark place, unable to get out by myself. Until Somebody heard the cry of my heart. I didn't have to stay there one day longer.
Jesus came all the way from heaven to rescue a world of people held captive. By the darkness inside them. "Sin" the Bible calls it. Our deadly addiction to defying God and doing life "my way" instead of His way. And we can't seem to stop. "Everyone who sins is a slave to sin," Jesus said (John 8:34 ).
I can't argue. The selfishness, the anger, the dark desires, the wounding words, the endless lies - nobody wants to be that way. But we are. We're prisoners in a dark place.
Until the Rescuer shows up at our door. Jesus. Who "gave Himself for our sins to rescue us" (Galatians 1:3 ). And "if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36 ). He didn't just come to the door. He died on a cross.
So here's my story: "I've been missing. I'm free now." And I'm home.