A few months ago I started to sense something in my soul as being off. I was looking ahead at my schedule, my days and months were filling up with ministering to people in church. Church events, ladies groups, MOPS, Christian conferences. Now don’t get me wrong, I love all of those things. In fact I just told Aaron the other day that more than any other time in my life do I feel as though God is using my gifts for his glory than right now. Getting to speak to women about God and encourage them to run their race, and follow him, is something I love to do. Creating a show in the podcast world that makes women feel connected, heard, understood, encouraged and inspired is what I was made to do.
But at the same time I couldn’t shake this feeling that something was off. I never felt as though my ministry was getting messy. I wasn’t getting my hands dirty. I felt very safe and secure. Then my friend Calli called and invited me to pray about joining a group of ladies each week that were going to be going into the jail to minister to women who are incarcerated.
I stopped dead in my tracks because this felt like what was next. I had just finished one of the best books I’ve ever read, Just Mercy, and God was stirring in my heart things about people who are incarcerated right when Calli called.
Today marks six weeks that we have been going into the jail. Six weeks of sitting around round tables with women who in most ways are just like me. Through bad choices and circumstances, they are finding themselves stripped of everything and living in jail. I get to walk out of there each week, and they don’t. I get to go pick up my kids from school and they don’t. I get to decide when I shower and when I eat, and they don’t have that choice.
Each week when I leave there my heart is hurting for whatever particular girl I was able to interact with that particular day. I find myself wanting to wrap them up in my arms, hold them and allow them the space to cry. To give them a safe place to let their emotions lose.
Today the girl that I sat next to had tears streaming down her face for most of the morning for reasons I might never know. I don’t know if she was moved by the lesson, or if she had a bad morning, or what, but all I know is that she was hurting. We talked for just a bit and I found out that she has two kids that are living with her husband. When I asked her how often she sees them the tears whelled up even more, and she shook her head and said never. She never sees her kids. I have no idea why, or any of the reasons why this might be the best plan, but no matter what I felt sorry for her. I wished that I could have told her it was going to be okay. I wish that I could have reassured her that she would see them soon, or that all would be well when they were reunited, but none of those words would have been honest words. Instead I just sat there, gently touched her shoulder and told her how sorry I was about all of this.
I’m so sorry that as a momma she doesn’t get to parent her kids daily. She doesn’t get to kiss their heads as they get into bed. She doesn’t get to break apart their squabbles. She doesn’t get to make their favorite dinner for them. She doesn’t get to hold their hands, or kiss their cheeks. She doesn’t get any of this.
What I felt today was sorrow. I have absolutely no idea why she’s incarcerated, but I do know that she’s a momma missing her kids and no matter what you did this is still hard.
In Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy, he says “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” I love that, and that’s what I think about as I sit next to these ladies each week. I have no idea what most of them are incarcerated for, and will never ask, but I do know that whatever it is, that’s not their defining factor. They are beautiful women trying to get their feet back under them. They are moms, daughters, and wives, all paying their time for a wrong choice, but all still full of so much more than their sentence.
As I listen to them each week, I find myself praying these words for them, “God let them know their worth, and let them see what you have to offer them. May I be someone who resonates love and acceptance to them, not because of myself, but because of you. God let them see you in me, and draw them to you as they journey towards their rehabilitation.”
I am so thankful that I was asked to join this team, and even more thankful that God knew I would need this in my life right now.
*Also how cute is that shirt?!? Get yours HERE.