Prisoner of Hope

Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
today I declare that I will restore to you double.
—Zechariah 9:12

Prisoner_of_Hope1The phrase that jumps out at me, of course, is prisoner of hope. 

Prisoner of hope?

But hope is a good thing, isn’t it? And being a prisoner is a bad thing. Isn’t it?

Prisoner_of_Hope4I’ve read some commentaries that try to rationalize away the discomfort, reasoning that if the prison is made of hope, then it must be a good prison. It must be the prison where you want to be.

Well, I’m sorry. Too much of the Bible is devoted to setting prisoners free.  I don’t believe in any “good” scriptural prison, even one made of hope.

Then I think of all the times I’ve been trapped by my own hope.

Prisoner_of_Hope3Hope for a certain kind of publication — hope that, for a time, may have blinded me to the true nature of my work.

Hope that someone I loved would love me back the way I wanted to be loved back. Or change in some other way. 

Hope that the world would be other than it is.

I have often been a prisoner of hope, and it’s not a good place to be.


Prisoner of hope,
Create your creation
without hope or fear,
out of love alone,
to serve the truth.

for hope that runs like water,
for hope that falls like the plum blossom,
for hope as free as the wind,


About Margaret D. McGee


  1. Brad Offutt says:

    I’m with you, Margaret. Far as I’m concerned, although good things can happen in prisons, prisons in and of themselves are not “good places.” It’s interesting that many translators render that passage, “Prisoners who still have hope,” or, “Prisoners who hope.” I like that a lot better. And then there’s the author of 1 Corinthians, almost certainly Paul – “So three things remain – faith, hope, love – and of these love is the greatest.” For me, faith engenders hope. They really need each other, and we need them both. But as Paul says, these two, or anything else, has no real value without love.

    Faith is
    the core of my hope

    Hope is
    the flesh of my faith

    Love is
    the soul of them both

    • Brad, what a wonderful expression of the relationship between faith, hope, and love. I like the structure and the movement.

      And, yes, I agree that those alternate translations make the passage more accessible.

      As I wrestled with “prisoner of hope,” it crossed my mind that the path I was taking with it had a bit of a Buddhist bend. It seemed to me that hope isn’t the problem so much as attachment to the object of hope. Clinging to whatever it is I’m hoping for, and getting caught by my desire & expectations. That’s why I ended with images of hope that were liquid, or buoyant. Life-giving, and also harder to cling to.

  2. Brad Offutt says:

    Margaret, thank you! I really, really like your image of liquid, buoyant hope that gives life but guides us away from objects of hope to cling to. A German lady of our acquaintance married a Greek fellow with great hope for a life that would, by its very differentness, take her away from herself. It was not hope that failed her; rather the desired object of that hope turned out to be impossible. She had changed her German name to the Greek equivalent of “hope.” Now she has changed it back, and now her life is on the mend. Not hopeless, rather no longer trapped in desire. Another friend, victim of an abusive marriage, yet survived through many vicissitudes and raised a loving daughter. Her earlier hopes were bound to desires and expectations, as you have said, and they failed her. In the end, holding to hope but cutting loose its unwanted baggage, she became a Greek Orthodox nun and found true peace. She chose her new, holy name with eyes wide open. She is not Sister Hope, but Sister Peace – a peace she shares with anyone in contact with her, a peace out of faith, a peace full of hope.

    • Yes, Brad, you friends’ choices and lives make moving examples of hope/desire/expectation … and choice, and redemption.
      Blessings on both your friends and their lives — and on all our lives.

  3. carolyn says:

    blue speckled eggs
    in a softly woven nest
    hope chest or prison?

    • carolyn says:

      downy hatchlings
      in a softly woven nest
      hope renewed

      • For me, prisoner of hope is also a positive feeling of courage, conviction and strength. When one is a prisoner of God, then they are a prisoner of faith, hope and love. They are caught in the net of God’s embrace.

        • I think humans are encapsulated in hope by nature much like the unborn chick in the egg.Beneath all my fears and doubts in the direst of circumstances, there beats that thread of hope. I wonder if Alexander Pope was thinking of this biblical passage when he wrote”hope springs eternal in the human breast”.