***A bit longer than usual, but trust me, it’s worth it.***
Skype. A phenomenal invention for long distance relationships, but what if the only interaction you could ever have with loved ones was via Skype? The only way you could see them was through a video screen? No hug, no high five, no pat on the back. What if the only way you could hear them was by holding an old school telephone to your ear?
Skype. A pretty sweet invention for long distance relationships. What if the person on the other end of the call was really only a cement wall or two away? This is reality for 793 out of every 100,000 Americans…and that’s if they get visitation.
You are not what I expected to write to today. Sure, I’ve always known normal is relative and people are incarcerated, but to really stop to think about jail being normal for people brings a great deal of you to my life.
A friend of mine ended up at my APT a few nights ago and two hours later I gained more of you than I bargained for one evening of my life. Through a crazy series of events, a God-ordained series in my opinion, she ended up at the county jail visiting an inmate she’d never met. Being a first time visitor and never being incarcerated, she was an amateur in all respects. Jail can be scary. I’ll never forget my 4th grade field trip where we toured the Lawton jail as the inmates stood behind their cell bars staring at us, sometimes hissing, sometimes hollering profanities. If I planned to do anything arrest worthy pre-4th grade, my mind quickly changed that day.
My friend arrived confidently, trusting the Lord had orchestrated her visit. No part of the story should be left out. This can’t do it justice. Every moment is unbelievably eye-opening from 17-year-olds with their newborns to visit their baby’s daddies, to the 15 minute maximums of actual conversation, to Skyping rather than truly seeing, to the fact that visiting people in jail is people in our society’s normal. Maybe I’m simply naive, but my eyes have been opened to a whole new stage of reality.
After waiting nearly two hours, having multiple confused conversations of why she would be visiting someone she’s never even met and building trust with her fellow visitors, the most ironic thing possible happened. The sister and niece of the girl she was visiting, a pregnant 21-year-old with three kids at home who had been arrested on meth charges, were also visiting. Imagine the confusion if you were going to see your sister or aunt, and some random, beautiful, 22-year-old girl was there too. Strange. A really neat conversation ensued between my friend and these two, and they ended up loving she had come and even asked her to pray for their family. They prayed in the jail’s waiting room. It was now meeting time.
What would you be thinking if you were in jail, saw the same people daily, had no control over your schedule and some random visitor showed up to see you? I’d be a little weirded out. I’d also be ecstatic to have someone to change the monotony of my life. She accepted seeing my friend, and it began. Some awkward initial conversation with a silent moment or two, but overall conversation flowed well. My friend had been praying for the ability to be real throughout the conversation. She succeeded and was able to meet this girl, an inmate, where she was.
Seeing my friend, you’d never guess it in a million years, but a big reason she ended up at the jail visiting this girl was because it could’ve easily been her. She had been through a season that could easily have landed her pregnant and in jail for meth charges just like the girl she was visiting. She’s not. She’s thriving and has passion, fervor and purpose to make a difference in this world. She will make a difference.
My friend was able to explain her story. Why she showed up. She shot her straight and played all her cards, even the ones she isn’t most proud of. She shared with her the truth that allowed her break away from the path that could have led her to prison. “Your past has the ability to define you, but it doesn’t have the right to.’ You get to actively choose to overcome the past, stupid decisions on your own accord or crap you had no control over because others took advantage of you. It’s a daily choice to fight or to succumb.
Not in an over the top fashion, but just in a this is my reality and what saved me from a dark path conversation, my friend got to share about Christ with the girl in jail. The Forgiver of Pasts. The Prince of Peace that surpasses all understanding. She was able to offer her hope. Hope in overcoming the cycle of jail, release, drugs, jail. Hope in going to rehab. Hope in the most important thing: eternal freedom.
15 minutes. In my head, I think I over-glamorize how the conversation actually shook out. In actuality, I think it probably wasn’t much different than a 15 minute conversation I would have with someone I just met on a plane. Normal…minus the video screens and phones.
The inmate asked my friend to come back. She wanted to hear more about the option of rehab. Heck, she probably just wanted someone to talk to next week…I doubt her schedule’s super busy. However, a situation that could have ended unbelievably bad, one that would likely have most of us in a state of anxiety, ended with hope. Ended in a potential friendship. Ended with Christ being glorified through His redemption in one girl’s life who is using it to provide hope in another’s.
This story written as a blog post doesn’t do it full justice. However, this story warms my heart and brings life to my soul. This story challenges me to get out of my comfort zone. This story reminds me that although I live in a bubble of believers, there is a world out there needing light. This story reminds me of my need to be bold, to obey the Lord’s leading. This story brings great you to me.
May my heart be stirred and my mind obey,