Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Learning How to Live in Prison

I just got back from the most amazing weekend, Kairos #52 at Tutwiler Prison. It was so special and I’ve been feeling a need to write about it. I’ve written about Kairos before. And some of those earlier entries are no doubt better worded than this one.  At this time, I still can't quite put my heart into words.  Much to ponder. But I'm going to try a little.
I don’t want to talk about what happens. Not right now. I do want to talk about the changes I saw in 36 beautiful ladies and how love won! Again! But those stories are so very precious and so many of them can’t be told. And even the ones that can, they are still pretty deep in my heart and I don’t think I can do them justice by talking about them.  But know that Christ’s love and power and forgiveness ruled! So many hearts were changed. Know that women who were dead inside came alive.  Know that we did not take Christ into that prison. He was already there working and loving – we simply visited Him there and joined in alongside what He was already doing!  Know that community was experienced and walls came down. It was a holy, beautiful, amazing time.

But right now I want to talk about what I experienced, because writing about it helps me process it. I was leading this weekend.  But yet, not really.  Christ was leading this weekend and was carrying me along with him.  Twice in my life now I’ve had an experience where I was doing something so outside my comfort zone and yet felt no anxiety about it.  I felt that way during my adoption of my oldest daughter.  There was a peace that surrounded the entire process and I felt like I didn’t have to do anything but come along for the ride.  I don’t know if that makes sense. But this weekend was the 2nd experience I had like that. I knew I was right where I was meant to be and no matter what obstacles were thrown out, they couldn’t shake my sense of peace because the peace came from Christ himself. I’m a “figure out-er”.  When there’s a problem, I’ll mull over it and think about it and try to figure out a solution. And I’ll 2nd guess and question whether it’s the right decision. But some things are just beyond our control. Prison Ministry is one of them. When obstacles came up, I had to act.  But I didn’t act based on my own assessment of what to do. I didn’t spend time trying to “figure out” solutions.  I just tried to surround those obstacles with prayer and let God guide me. That’s not always easy for me. But in this experience, it just was. Of course, there were a whole lot of people praying and I could feel those prayers.  They were so strong!   I didn’t do a lot of 2nd guessing or questioning of decisions.  And that peace surrounded me all weekend. I almost lost the peace once, just once.  I was telling someone what the obstacle was and she looked me in the eyes and said “and your concern with that is?” and I paused. And then I answered “nothing. I’m not worried about this”, and as I said those words, they were true. I meant them, and peace ruled.  Here’s just one example.  We experienced a tornado drill in the prison.  And for several reasons, it disheartened our participants.  They had to sit on the floor on one side of the chapel and we had to sit on the floor on the other side.  Two officers stood between us. They were embarrassed, maybe partially because it was a harsh reminder of prison life in the middle of a weekend that otherwise provided a little relief from it.  And we were separated – which felt wrong after we’d spent the previous 2 days building them up and breaking down walls and sharing how we’re not so different.  It was just hard on them and you could see it on their faces.  (Interestingly, more than a few of us team members were teachers and thought absolutely nothing about having to sit on the floor for a tornado drill). One participant spoke the words aloud, “I’m embarrassed”.  Some got a little angry.  Yet I felt no anxiety or worry.  And that could only come from God! I simply glanced behind me at the team, saw half of them with their heads bowed praying, and then I did the same.  I don’t know what they prayed, but I felt a spirit of calmness.  And I prayed God would show me how to communicate that this was okay. And He did.  I didn’t think about it, I didn’t 2nd guess myself. When the drill was over I just went to the microphone confidently and knew what words needed to come out of my mouth.  It wasn’t a lot. It wasn’t fancy. The words themselves weren’t anything special.  I don’t even remember exactly what they were.  But something about wanting them to know we were not phased by what had just happened and we did not see them as a number or a uniform. They were children of God and we were going to put it behind us and move on.  That was not me – I don’t do that.  I don’t know what to say to calm a situation. I don’t know how to think on my feet for that kind of thing. I didn’t even try.  I simply asked for help, and it was there and all was good. Peace ruled!

And of course, peace should have ruled! God had every prayer answered and every detail covered! Choosing trust, and prayer, and love is so very easy in that little prison chapel. And yet, I am challenged because choosing trust, and prayer, and love is not so easy every day.  And my challenge and my prayer is that I will learn to love as freely, pray as boldly, and trust as faithfully in my “free world” life as I do in my “prison life”.