Thursday, February 10, 2011

God in Prison

I was in prison last night. In solitary confinement actually. I was that bad.

As I look at my fellow inmates, I think about the thick plate of plexiglass that seperates me from them. Their faces are close to mine. Their hearts even more so. And all we had between us is plastic.

I have a terrific friend in Joseph Wingfield (sorry if this makes you blush Joseph, I know you aren't perfect and all that). He reads my blog, which would just raise him a few more notches on my friend scale, if he hadn't already topped out. He's a great friend because he believes in people. He believes in them recklessly, passionately and without inhibition. Sort of like Jesus. He's the kind of guy you want to be around when life has you down and the kind of guy you want when you're in prison. He took me and some friends to prison with him last night to "minister" to the inmates.

Like usual they ministered to me. People in the pit of life have so much more to offer than people on the mountain. Life has stripped them down of most everything and you see the image of God clearly in them. It either shines brightly in thier hope, or they try to block it by their denial, lies, desperation and fear. Either way, the image of God is central when you engage with people in the pit.

I gave up trying to spread the Gospel words last night. These guys already know the words. It's the music they long to hear. One totally tatooed friend simply asked me what I had done yesterday. As I shared about support raising to work with teens, he said some encouraging words and nodded in approval, but he really lit up when I talked about my bike ride. This led me to talk about my favorite rides, when I would meet God in the woods in the Pacific Northwest, surrounded gargantuous trees (one I described was 13 arm lengths around!), the delicious smell of pine, and mist broken up by sun. It's a sensory overload even now I welcome in my memory. I described it to my friend. He told me about the weed you can smoke out there. While I don't smoke, we laughed together. It was good.

These guys behind glass teach me something about the world we all live in. We live in a world where people who aren't behind glass are behind a lot more. A world where it's really hard to get to the image of God. A world where connection is so rare to find.

That's why I'm glad we have Jesus. He knows how to connect us. Not only does he help me to connect with others, but he's helping me to connect with myself. And when he comes to my cell door, I show him my tattoos and muscles, hoping he'll be impressed.

And Jesus does the best thing! He laughs, engages and loves. He actually cares about my muscles and tats. He shares stories about what it's like on the outside. He talks through the cell door about life and my heart leaps as he talks about massive trees, the smell of sweet pine, and sun breaking through fog. My heart leaps as he speaks tenderly about freedom.

This is the passion that grips me this morning. This connection to our true closer-than-a-brother friend has gripped me. His message is hope for my fellow inmates. His message is clear and beautiful. His message is one I want to spread. For he's taken the time to come to my cell door, to speak through the glass and to press his hand against mine.
May he come to your cell today.

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