Sorry I’m a day late with GloryStory. I had mouse troubles yesterday. Not the four-legged furry kind, but the tech kind, which I find far more irritating. I’m fully functioning again… well, my computer is! And who knows? It might have been divine intervention that kept me from writing yesterday morning, because last night needed to happen first. That’s what I really needed to write about. So here goes.
I’ve been going to prison for over four years now. At least once a week, and most weeks two and three times. I’ve met hundreds of women. Every story is heartbreaking. Every story reminds me how desperately we need Jesus. Every story makes me grateful for the life I’ve had.
And then there are those stories that do all that and more. Those stories that drop me instantly to my knees. Those stories that keep me up at night. Those stories that won’t quit echoing through my head and heart. That’s E’s story. I met E in March of this year on the second day after she arrived as a 16 year old in prison. She was surly and uninterested in talking to some “church” lady. I’ve learned not to let that hurt my feelings. I’ve encountered a few “church ladies” in my time, too. E didn’t stay long in the dorm. She’s a cutter. That landed her in the psych ward a few times, and if not there, her other behavior put her in solitary confinement. Not to be deterred, I made it a point to check in on her… just say hello and ask how she was doing. These things take time. The walls built sky high by her hurt and pain were not going to be penetrated easily. But I’m persistent. Or some might say stubborn.
As God would have it, I saw E on Sunday night and got to visit with her for about ten minutes. I’m still not sure why she finally opened the door a little, but she shared more about her life in that short time then my heart was prepared to hear.
I don’t remember where I went to school. I never really got to go.
I’ve been locked up since I was 9. I haven’t seen my family since then.
I’m ok with prison. I’m safe here, and I always have something to eat.
Our short conversation left my head and my heart reeling. How? HOW?
On Sunday night when I got home, I googled the city where E grew up. I counted 51 churches in her city alone. Over 250 in the county. How? HOW?
And then I visited with E again late last night. We had a much longer visit.
I want to be good, but I don’t know how. I’ve always had to fight to survive.
I don’t remember a meal that I didn’t have to steal until I came to prison.
Prison is my family.
No one has ever loved me, Miss Trae. I’m too bad.
I’ve read about Jesus in the Bible, but I don’t know how He could love me.
As our time came to a close, I said two things to her:
I am here for you.
I will pray for you.
Her eyes welled with tears again, and she said without hesitation, “No one has ever told me that before.”
I’ll be honest with you. I don’t even know exactly what “here for you” looks like in a complicated, messy situation like E, but I do know this: It is exactly what God called the church to do. To be here for the broken and wounded. To love Him enough that we will love others no matter how complicated and messy. To give sacrificially and tirelessly. To seek and pray desperately. To have our comfortable and safe lives disrupted so we can be used by Him.
E is mine. E is ours.
God said so. We are not saved so we can sit, but so we can serve.
And you may be thinking to yourself that you’re off the hook because prison ministry is where the Es are at. But can I just remind you that before E went to prison, she might have been a little girl in your neighborhood or your community or your church. Her momma might be the clerk at the convenience store where you get gas. Her daddy might be the mechanic who works on your car or the plumber who fixes your leaky faucet. E, as well as her brothers and sisters, might have been one of your child’s classmates. Any one of them might be the stranger on the street. But know this without a doubt: She and so many others like her are out there. And they are overlooked and ignored.
But the truth is this: E is mine. E is ours.
God said so. We are not saved so we can sit, but so we can serve. We are saved so we can know Him and make Him known.
Will you pray with me for E who God has placed in my life so I can love and serve her? I promise you that I’m praying for those God places in your lives, too!
least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”