Title taken from Coldplay’s song Cemeteries of London
Jacob was a believer. Maybe he didn’t believe in God the same way his family believed in Him, but he believed.
What he didn’t believe in was praying to God. After all, the people that surround him now had prayed. They had prayed and prayed and where had it gotten them? Leaving their homes behind with everything they could carry on their backs, crossing a border in the middle of the night so they had a chance of living.
For as long as he could remember, he had been dragged along. He was told to sit still while the man talked about how you should treat people with kindness, give to charity, and thank God for all you have been given.
But Jacob also remembered that story his father had been so fond of, about the man who was drowning. He’d refused help from three different people, saying God will save him, until he had died. He’d asked God why He hadn’t saved him, and God told him He had sent three different people to help him.
He knew the lesson, of course, because his father had also liked to dissect things after saying them. God helps those who help themselves.
At the time he hadn’t been sure what that meant. If you were helping yourself then why would God need to help you? And those people, those monsters, had certainly helped themselves to his peoples land, to their homes and farms and God knows what else.
And God did know, he was all knowing after all. So had He helped the invaders? Jacob might only been fifteen but he knew that is not something you ask. God was meant to be on their side, one of the good guys.
He looked at his brother Henry, only two years his senior but had already seen more than any grown man should, and then at his younger sister Grace, who clung to their mothers hand as they walked over the soft earth. She won’t remember this when she grows up, he could only hope.
His mother’s face was haggard. They had set off at sun down and it must be well past midnight by now, but if they stopped they risked separation from the rest of the group. There was no added safety in numbers but without a grown man alongside them, they didn’t have much of a chance once they arrived at the other side.
Grace stumbled over a rock and nearly fell if it hadn’t been for his mothers steadying hand, but he could tell she was starting to wear thin. He knew his mother wouldn’t let him take any more of the weight on her back, clothes and food and other essentials, but he could bear something else for her.
He bent down and picked Grace up into his arms. She reflexively put her arms around his neck and held on. “I’m tired Jake,” she whispered, “when can we stop?”
“Not yet,” he replied, “get some rest.”
“Wake me when you get tired,” she mumbled, resting her head on his shoulder.
He adjusted his grip and kept walking, returning his mother’s smile.
No, Jacob didn’t believe in praying to God from inside a building while a man told them what to say, but as he put one foot after another, he believed they would get the help they needed.