Last month I had an opportunity to attend a two-day women’s conference held in a state prison. I have never imagined myself ministering to women who have been incarcerated and was not sure how God would use me in that setting.
When the Ministry team and I arrived, the experience became completely surreal! Being stripped of things I take for granted daily, being ordered around and told what to wear, reminded of what to leave home, being searched and shaken down. We had to walk through heavy metal electronic doors. Hearing that chilling sound of the same slam behind us then lock up, definitely struck a cord or two! The experience surged through my core creating apprehensions that this life for many truly does exist!
The corridor leading to the chapel where the inmates were waiting for us was very dull and gloomy. Although not maximum security, it was clear that the facility was far from modern in every way. Those unfortunate to call this place home are offered no more than the bare necessities to survive.
To my surprise, when I entered into the chapel the women were already engaged in praise and worship. I was taken aback because of the ignorant perception in my mind of what I thought I would see. The women had their hands raised and eyes closed in reverence of the Lord. They were clearly open and ready to receive! Any mental defenses I had up immediately fell as I silently whispered to my Savior, “Lord, use me in this place!” I was in complete awe of their genuine tender hearts and was willing to serve in any way possible.
As I took a seat and waited for direction from The Ministry Leaders, I scanned the chapel. It was quaint, warm and inviting. The presence of God was without question in this place! Had it not been for the guards, warden and state uniforms worn by the women, I could have easily felt like I was simply visiting a new church. The atmosphere really helped to ease my preconceived notions I had conjured up in my mind days leading up to the visit.
I then scanned the faces of the prisoners. I was in shock as I considered them. Many looked like me! Normal, non-threatening, sweet, mature, beautiful and loved God. They were mothers, wives, girlfriends, grandmothers and more. What the heck are they all doing here?? I’ve got to be on “Candid Camera” for there is no way ALL of these women are capable of unthinkable acts….
I discovered that I was amongst physical abusers, drug addicts, alcoholics, thieves and yes, even murderers…
As several shared there stories of how they arrived at this place, my heart broke as their tears fell reminiscing on the days they simply made the wrong decision that drastically changed their regular lives forever. It only took a second, a fleeting moment in time that caused them to put dangerous undo pressure on some very thin lines.
I am very familiar with those moments, for I have had several throughout my life. In fact, The last, not that long ago. Outraged beyond reconciliation , responses without thought when I am offended; wanting to plot revenge against one who has hurt me; basking in unforgiveness, hate, cruelty and near insanity! My own thin lines could have very easily placed me exactly where these women are.
Although thankful that my Savior has saved me from myself today, I need Him tomorrow and always to teach me to respond the way He instructs:
With soft answers that turn away wrath -(Proverbs 15:1)
Love my enemies – (Matthew 5:44 & Luke 6:28)
Leave revenge to The Lord – (Romans 12-19)
Forgive as He has forgiven me – (Colossians 3:13 & Ephesians 4:32)
And so much more…
My prayers remain with those women that have had such an impact on my spirit. As I was there to minister to them, they actually did the same for me. They are currently living through their testimonies and God STILL wants and loves them. I can only pray that I will encounter at least one in the future to see how God turned everything around for their good. (Genesis 50:20 & Romans 8:28)
Are you walking dangerous thin lines today? If so, please stop and consider your future. God has the answers to all that troubles you. Don’t allow the matter to eat away at your soul like acid. If you do, you can easily find yourself in the state of one of these women or worse. No matter how offended, hurt or unfair it all has been, seek God to stabilize your path; He will turn those thin lines into concrete boundaries that only He can sustain.