No, I’m not a convicted criminal.
But, as those of you who follow me on Instagram know, I did go into a maximum security women’s prison last weekend to help teach inmates about Jesus and healthy boundaries. This was my first experience in a prison.
And it messed with me.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but I can say that somehow I didn’t expect to see such brokenness and darkness. I didn’t expect to come face-to-face with a committer of a horrific child-murder. I didn’t expect to be so accosted by the sinfulness and depravity of …me.
Nor did I expect to be so confronted by God’s inscrutable, immeasurable grace.
But I was.
I guess I thought it would be a jubilant time, taking the hope of Jesus to those in the pits of life. And in some ways, it truly was. The Holy Spirit is at work. God has not forsaken these women. He loves them. It’s exciting to see the hope they have available.
As my mind ran about a million-miles-per-hour all weekend, trying to make sense of what I saw and heard, I pieced together a few profound (for me) realizations. I know I will process this for a long time to come, but here are my initial takeaways.
Lessons I Learned in Prison
1. As horrified as I am by some of these crimes, I too am capable of everything they have done. The same evil nature that lies within them is within me. I see myself as I truly am. Wretched and in desperate need of God. I am humbled.
2. Prison is a dark and spiritually oppressive place. It’s not as glamorous as I perhaps expected, but God has called, equipped and gifted some amazing men and women be a light in this darkness. It is such a high calling. I feel privileged to have participated in the work they are doing. I am encouraged.
3. There are good things happening in the lives of women in prison. God is drawing the hearts of some, refining them and teaching them through His word. They, in turn are ministering to others and pushing back darkness. These women will not all return to the life they left or make the same mistakes again. I am hopeful.
4. God’s grace for me and all humanity is utterly unsearchable. It’s mysterious. It’s breathtaking. It’s beyond comprehension. It’s everything to those of us who believe. And it’s available to everyone. I am in awe.
Since returning home, I’m hungry for God’s grace. Ravishingly so. I want to understand and know it’s depths, to live out of its abundance. Every day I’m getting up earlier than ever to search scripture for it’s meaning. I am thankful for this new lens of perspective God has given me, and I’m eager to see what more He will teach me.
God, thank you for opening my eyes just a bit more to my own wretchedness. Your grace is not only for prisoners and convicted criminals, it’s for ME. And I desperately need it. Because of your love, you lavishly give it. Take me deeper God. Amen.