I spent some time recently visiting our county jail to do pastoral care with inmates who ask to speak with a minister. Now, before you congratulate me for being servant-minded, you should know that this activity scares me to death. Not because I'm worried that a prisoner will try and hurt me, but because I feel incredibly inadequate and separated from the experiences they are having.
And yet I have a sense of feeling called to do this, and so every month I go and pray that God will give me the words to say. It's an incredible way to build my faith!
The last time I visited, I believe God reminded me of something. I spent several hours sitting in a small 6x6 room, separated from the inmate by a very thick piece of glass, as they sit in their 6x6 room and share their story. As one young man poured out his heart and his need for God (which was very cool in and of itself), I noticed that I could see my reflection in the glass. As the young man would look up at me, not only could I see his face, but my own distinct image staring back at me.
"We are not so different, you and I," I thought to myself. As I saw my reflection, I was prompted to consider how similar I truly am to the person on the other side. Sure, I am free and on the right side of the law, but our hearts our similar. As the prisoner shared his story, I could hear bits and pieces of my own. The only difference was that at certain critical junctures, his story went one direction and mine another. The kind of friends we chose in high school, the jobs we chose to pursue, the way we began spending our free time- where I had gone right, he had gone left.
I was reminded in this that I am here by God's grace. Within everyone single one of us lies the capability to be something we never want to be. I am more and more aware of God's hand on my life and his direction even when I couldn't see him. And this also fills me with compassion for the man on the other side of the glass, who, even though he has become what he never wanted to be, still has incredible potential to be who God is calling him to be.
I hope he finds that person within himself. I pray that God gives me the grace and strength to continue pursuing that in my own life. And I pray that you will, too.
Blessings on your journey-