This weekend, I had the opportunity to go to the county prison to help lead a Bible Study with the women. At first, I honestly wasn’t too sure about going. I feared what I would see or experience in such a setting. I was afraid I would not know what to say or do.
Although as I stepped into the meeting room and watched the ten women enter in their jumpsuits, I was truly humbled. They were not crazy animals or other nonsense the world often portrays.
There was indeed a crime of some sort connected to them. But they each had a name. And as I looked into their eyes, I saw their humanity. They were just like me. They had just made one wrong choice that changed everything.
We introduced ourselves and allowed each woman to share pieces of their stories and how long they had been in prison. Some spoke of their story with anger. Others with tears. Some admitted their guilt and expressed sorrow for the actions that led them there.
As the meeting continued, we shared the power of Jesus and His unfailing love. Then, we asked each woman to consider one step they could take to break their unhealthy cycles.
One woman said, finding new friends. Another said she wanted to go to a recovery center to get clean and rebuild her life after she was released. One said counseling.
But then there was one woman, around the same age as me, who shared that she believed she was living her best life there in prison. Despite expressing our concerns and questions, she continued to be adamant that she did not need help and was doing a good job of looking after herself despite being in chains.
Eventually we left and went our ways for the day. Although, this woman and her response stuck with me. It saddened my heart that she was convinced that being in prison and behind bars was truly living.
The more I prayed and thought, God opened my heart to see that while we may not physically be on the other side of prison bars, we are not far from her.
There are things and people and situations and lies from the enemy that keep us in chains and hold us back from becoming the women and men God created us to be.
God has given us everything we need him including the keys to getting free, yet we stubbornly keep walking around with the weight.
Instead of admitting our chains, we put on masks, pick up bottles or food, put on designer clothes or running shoes, spend our days watching Netflix or working as many hours as possible. We even sit in church pews, convincing ourselves that we are okay.
Meanwhile, God is like… GIRL!!!!!! Why????? I DID NOT CREATE YOU TO BE ENSLAVED.
Galatians 5:1 says, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm. Then. And do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery".
So, what is it that you need to walk in freedom from today?
Another thing that I learned from this experience is God’s call for us to love other people. Our culture has twisted this word “love”. We think that to love someone, they must look or talk like us. They have to love us first. And, of course, we have to agree and be okay with their lifestyle.
Although, this skewing is far from the truth of God’s word. We are ALL created in the image of God and are called to LOVE. Male and Female. Rich and Poor. Prisoner and “free person”. Black and White and Mixed. Young and Old. Educated and uneducated. Homeless and homeowners. Disabled and healthy. Even those who hate us.
Jesus says in Matthew 5 we are to “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us“.
We cannot deny that there comes a time when conversations need to take place. But the heart behind all is LOVE and ultimately bringing that person closer to God in restoration.
So, I would like to challenge you to examine your life. Look for areas where you may be saying you are free, but the fruit and the story of your life is telling otherwise.
I would also encourage you to take steps toward people who are different from you. Instead of judging or hating, or trying to correct them, take the time to listen and ask questions.
I promise if you can bite your tongue and stop your brain from coming up with a way to argue with them, you will be surprised at what you find. Just like the women in prison, we are all much more alike than we think.
If you are ready to get out from behind bars, I would love to pray with and encourage you and help you take your next steps with Jesus! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One thought on “Behind Bars”
That’s a whole other world. I can fully understand why you felt uneasy. You never know what to say, at least at first. And you know the truth of the situation, but you still don’t want to unnecessarily offend anyone. Good for you for having the courage to go. You’re right. Once you get over the awkwardness of the situation you find they are really just people in a bad position. And God loves them as much as us.
I’ll pray for that one girl. She’s clearly in denial. I pray God gets through to her.