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When the “Supposed To” Doesn’t Happen

The true measure of time is called hope.

Today I bring you a true story of hope in the darkness, by Brenda Seefeldt Amodea. She has written a book based on her experiences called “I Wish I Could Take Away Your Pain,” and although we write from different perspectives, we share the same heart when it comes to living out grief and ministering to each other along the way. It is a perfect companion to “Peering into the Tunnel: An Outsider’s Look into Grief,” which I recently released. She has quite a story and there is much to learn from her words.

Pope Francis has said something profound about hope, something to make you ponder. 

This quote was about prison and hope. That sounds like an oxymoron. Prison is a daily part of my life. I thought that too at first.

In a letter to prisoners in Velletri, Italy, he wrote: 

“Inmates are living an experience in which time seems both to be stopped, and to never end. The true measure of time is not that of the clock. …The true measure of time is called hope.” (

I am a mom of four sons I chose to raise when they were young teens. Two have ended up in prison anyway despite having love and safety. One of my sons is in the middle of a 30-year bit. 

What a weird slang word “bit” is when it comes to doing time in prison. It is never a little bit. 

We’ve done every day with him, though dealing with this time for us is very different than it is for him. It certainly feels like the true measure of time is the clock which seems to be stopped and to never end.

Yet the Pope switches it up and declares that the true measure of time is called hope. What?! How?!

I know for my son hope is hard to come by. The situation around him is dreary. Lots of people—both inmates and correctional officers—have given up on hope. This lack of hope certainly affects decisions which are made around him. You’ve watched enough HBO to fill in that word picture.

I keep reminding my son that hope is Plan B. 

Plan A has crushed me at times. Plan A was the “supposed-to” part of my life. My boys were loved and taught and had a chance to not go to prison. It was easy to hope when this was “supposed-to” happen. 

My “supposed-to” didn’t happen. Now I have a choice. I can keep on living in Plan A and throw a temper tantrum at God because he “promised” this “supposed-to” was going to happen. Or I can just numb myself to get through the discomfort of the reality that Plan A is not going to come to be. Or I can make the decision to make a Plan B.

To make a Plan B is a me-decision. I can’t offload this to God. 

Out of my broken-heart I can find a way to set new goals; strengthen my tenacity muscles (Romans 5:3-5 so true!); because I believe worthiness is my birthright. I believe I am worthy of having something good happen to me—and my sons. I believe that God is for me. I believe that God’s promises are still for me because they are wider than my “supposed-to’s.” 

Trust me. This is more than just looking for that “silver lining” in everything. That can get rather old rather quickly when you are looking at 30 years. This is truly believing that God is for my son and God has my son’s “back” through it all. 

So this is what the Pope means. The true measure of my son’s 30 years is this hope. He is a different man than when he was originally arrested. He is a different man than he was even 5 years ago. In the most dire of situations that he has had to live through, my son continues to become the better man. This is happening somehow in our screwed up and dehumanizing prison system.  

I still wish from the bottom of my soul that my son’s life could have turned out differently. And I truly believe that when we get to the end of this, I am going to find more gratefulness for the man he is becoming. He is becoming a man who is doing more than serving his time. He is becoming a man who knows hope. And that is a strength.

The Pope understood this oxymoron – and now so do I.

Brenda is a pastor, speaker, wife, and mom to four men with their own brave stories. Her life is a story of getting her heart smashed and the many times she has chosen to get up. She shares the beauty of her pain at Brenda has written a helpful book about the people who have helped her carry her pain, I Wish I Could Take Away Your Pain. This book includes a long list of what not to do as well as the many small things to do that matter. It is this gift of people who help Brenda tell her story.

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