She looked up at me with a smile on her face. I had a split second to convey soooo many messages. “You are loved! More than you know, and more than you might be shown. Your value is infinite, and there is a hope for your future beyond pretty dresses. You’re not defined by your present situation, nor by the decisions of your parents. You’re a child of God, creator of all things. He has spoken a big fat “YES!” over whatever “no” your life situation might be whispering. You have amazing capacities for good, for love, for becoming an incredible woman and changing the world. There are arms that want to hold you, that will never let you go…and He is always with you. Jesus loves you…”
But as her mom spewed obscenities into the video phone, having a conversation with the girls father who was in jail for what sounded like really good reasons…all I could do was bundle all of those thoughts into a smile. A prayer, as I continued to wait for the person I was visiting to appear on my screen.
I do this every week.
When I began, I felt like I was being stretched. I was excited, after all there are so many places in scripture that tell us as Christ-followers to love and visit those who are in prison. I was nervous, to begin visiting 2 who I’d never met. They’ve received me well, and God has been in our conversations. I hadn’t previously thought much about my purpose in that environment as a living prayer. Nevertheless, it’s what those times become.
There’s always a line. I pray for the loved ones buying phone cards, sitting and waiting for updates, verbally spouting all sorts of obscenities about their situation. They’re so frustrated. They’re confused. They’re upset. Usually it comes out in the direction of the woman who works the window. There are 4 of these women, only one works at a time. They have the patience of someone who knows the anger they receive is not really for them. I pray for their strengthening.
The elevator door opens, and the next single parent walks in, holding a girl who shouldn’t be in places like this. She gets yanked along by a mom who’s way too upset to think about much else. But she’s obviously shown great care in getting this girl all ready for daddy to see her. Braids tightly done, each decorated with it’s own colorful barret. I smile at her, trying to offer her the facial expression that communicates, “It’s okay. Life is so much bigger than this moment.”
I hear and see glimpses about each case. I sit in my booth, waiting for the screen to turn on, and quietly pray for those in booths around me. I hear a few positive words, it sounds like he compliments babygirls’ hair. Then the conversation quickly changes to more weighty topics, and she’s left wondering what is being said over that phone. I pray for her, by name if I’ve heard it. So many broken lives. So many children, not quite understanding why they can’t be held by daddy.
There are so many experiencing brokenness of a world impacted by sin. These were sounds and images I was disconnected from a few years ago. I believe one of the many reasons I’m there, is to speak about it. To remind those of us who will hopefully never find ourselves in the waiting room of a county jail – pray. Pray for the families in our city that shattered late last night. Pray for the restoration and healing of the man who was released this morning. Pray for the children who need to know they’re loved…
And when given the chance….smile at them. 🙂