Yesterday, James Harden and Jonathan Barr were granted their Certificates of Innocence. Both brothers were convicted in 1991 of rape and murder, and sentenced to 80 years in prison, at the respective ages of 16 and 14. After serving 20 years of their sentence, DNA evidence proved their innocence.
In November 2011, the brothers were released and exonerated, meaning that they were proved innocent of their convicted crime. The Certificate of Innocence in Illinois takes it one step further. The Certificate marks the court’s acknowledgement of innocence and wrongful conviction, which entitles recipients to monetary reparations and other benefits for time served.
In contrast to the usual lengthy arguments, the State did not oppose granting James and Jonathan’s Certificates. The whole process seemed simple and brief. Yet, these brothers know too well that the fight for freedom is anything but simple and brief.
When we walked outside, Jonathan, in his loving glow, sparkled and said, “James would often have to remind me, ‘We have to be patient.’”
Patience. That word rang in my ears after he said it.
Later in the day, a friend called to discuss looking for an apartment. “Saren, I just want this process to be over. I want to get to the other side. This is seriously a lesson in patience.” There was that word again! A very disparate situation, of course, but that urge to rush the process is the same.
When the end of a process seems far away and the pain seems insurmountable, you must trust in the delay. You must trust that the end is not being withheld in order to deny you what you deserve. We somehow translate loss or pain into a rejection–a denial of what we’re working toward. If you trust that the universe is teaching you, not denying you, the process can allow tremendous growth.
In the words of Michael Beckwith, “A DELAY IS NOT A DENIAL.”
Patience is mix of fight and surrender. You must be active in pursuing the end goal. Though, if you are convinced you’re being denied based on the length of your fight and choose not surrender to faith, you risk never learning the lessons.
James and Jonathan endured the patience process for over 20 years. The delay in a proclamation of innocence took 20-plus years longer than it should have, but, ultimately, it wasn’t denied. They fought for freedom; they surrendered to faith.
“Some days I wake up with a cloud around my heart, and it dulls everything except the weight I carry deep inside. Yet, just because I can’t make it to the light today doesn’t mean that the light has vanished. In truth, the heart, like the Earth, is continually blanketed by ever-changing atmospheres that come and go between who we are and how we live our days.
So faith, it seems, can be defined as the effort to believe in light when we’re covered by clouds, and though it feels like the sun will never come again, the truth is it has never stopped burning its light. In fact, its heat and warmth is burning steadily, right now, on the far side of what cloud we are under.
If we could only suspend our judgment when clouded in the heart. For many skepticism is born from conclusions drawn while unable to see, as if any kind of understanding will prevent the clouds from coming or going, again and again.
But no cloud lasts forever. The Earth and all that grows from it knows this well. So does the heart and everything that grows from it, in spite of all our very understandable pains.”
-Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
[To read more about James and Jonathan's story, click here.]