Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. – Matthew 5:5
I hand over my ID to the officer, get my badge and walk right in. I walk past the waiting room filled with family members and friends of inmates, waiting to connect with their loved ones who are incarcerated. I walk through the door – oops, wrong one. The door reads, “Minimum Area” – nope, that’s not where I’m going. I spot the door on the other side that says, “Lockdown Area.” Yup, that’s where I’m going. Wait – am I sure? Yes. I’m sure.
I walk through the jail grounds and I start singing…”Be with us, Mary, along the way, guide us every step we take. Lead us to Jesus, your loving Son, lead us to heaven, come with us come.” Like a mantra, I sing and pray this song to calm my nerves. Didn’t really know what to sing, but apparently my lips just started moving to this song, so I went with it. Thank you, heart!
I wasn’t sure what road to walk down, so thank goodness there were signs. I remember turning myself around at one point because I was disoriented as to what direction to go in! Luckily, I found my way. I could only imagine what the officers watching the cameras were thinking. Oh well!
As I walked, I reminded myself of the prayers surrounding me and the Spirit that is with me. Many, many steps later, I get to the unit, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to the sound of the heavy door buzzing me in. I jumped a little bit because it startled me. It is as loud as I could imagine a gunshot to be. And I have no idea what that even sounds like in real life. I walk in, check in, the officers greet me, and I go right into the room. Not knowing who or what to expect, I am there, and peace takes over. There’s a common smell that meets me when I walk into the dorm, and the officers announce that it’s Bible Study time.
A couple of the “Trustees” set up the chairs for me and greet me. Then in comes the group!
We reviewed the Beatitudes and discussed the challenges presented in society and culture vs. what God values and what matters. A man shared his “spiritual awakening” story – enough to bring anyone to tears. Not one word out of the men after this man shares his story. Just silence, as if we were all holding his words and tender heart. A few silent beats, and then they clap and a few men shook his hand. They were so moved. So many stories, so much hurt, and so much pain – deep-rooted experiences are carried in the tired eyes of these men. Within each story, it is almost as if you can feel their hearts speaking. And I do, and it is enough to silence me at times, and just let the moment reveal itself.
There is nowhere to hide, nothing to even try to conceal. They are who they are, and it is beautiful to listen to, and to be invited into. Tonight, one of the men shared with us, “I pray that the Bible may be like a cup of water for me. That it will quench my thirst, and be what I need when I am thirsty for Truth.” The brotherhood that I witnessed tonight in this group was a gift. The men affirmed one another, applauded each other, shook each others’ hands. I get to witness this?
I don’t think I said “Amen” so many times in the course of an hour of faith sharing. There was just no other word that would be appropriate. Often times there was no acknowledging response that I could give, other than, “Amen.” For someone who talks as much as I do, that hopefully illustrates how powerful those sharings were. I pray for these brothers of mine, and for the women I saw the other day. They struggle with fear of the unknown future and anxiety and uncertainty. Each day, I pray for hope and enlightenment. That they may encourage one another and build one another up, as they anticipate the next day.
I left the unit, breathing in the fresh air, looking up at the sky, and walking my little legs towards the “EXIT” sign. Just like that, I get to walk out. As I passed on by, I saw a few of the family members and friends a few steps closer to seeing their loved one. During visiting hours, they could interact with their loved ones through a glass pane, with a black telephone connected between them. I walk on by, close the door behind me, and say a prayer for them.
Probably wondering who I am, and how it is that I get to just walk in and out, I smile at them and drive home.