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What I Learned in Jail

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Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Hebrews 13:3

I had already handed over my license and my car key. Waiting for the guard to come get me I have to admit I was nervous.

“Remember none of them thought they would be here at this point in their lives,” a friend reminded me earlier that afternoon.

Nor did I.

At age 40, late on a Sunday night, I was waiting to bring a meeting of recovery to twenty women inmates. I had gone through the required training months ago. The jail tour that concluded the training was not on the list of most inspiring moments in my life.

I had declined to be put on the schedule. To be honest, I was too scared.

There are other things I can do. I don’t want to put my life at risk. It’s not a convenient time of the week. There are other people better suited to do this. The excuses were plentiful.

The guard appeared and the metal sliding door took us into the holding pen. It slowly closed behind us. The next door slid open and we were inside heading toward the elevator. My heart was pounding but I had a smile on my face. We made some pleasant small talk.

A few more metal doors and secure passages and I was in walking past a hundred women in orange jumpsuits towards the back of their ‘home’ where the education room was lit and a group of twenty were waiting for our arrival. Thank goodness I wasn’t alone.

We put our chairs in a circle and the reading and discussion of Step 1 began. The crux of the topic was how your life had become unmanageable.

Wouldn’t everyone in this room admit to that easily? I mean…you’re in jail!

No.

And that was astonishing to me.

Was everyone miserable? I mean…you’re in jail!

No.

And that was also astonishing to me.

As so it is with life. We get to choose our perceptions. There are no external factors that absolutely mean anything. Jail can be a place of misery or recovery or even happiness.

“I don’t’ know why I’m happy, but I am,” said one inmate. She smiled and patted the girls on the left and right of her. “I have my friends here.”

This reminded me of my choice to be happy regardless of the circumstance. I can always find a bright side, but will I make that choice? There are no situations that are so dire, so hopeless, so terrible that God is not there. And that is what brings ease and rest.

God is here. He never leaves. He is carrying us through the tough stuff and holding our hand through the fire.

As I walked out of that final metal door and my license and keys were returned to me I felt a little lighter, a little freer.

Not just because I could drive my car home and listen to music I love, but because in my heart I felt God’s presence. I knew that I had made the right decision to go and bring His love to a group of women who need it more than most.

Today I am feeling honored to have been a vessel for good in the world. I feel proud that I faced my fear of going into a prison and doing as God instructed. Remember those who are in prison as if you were there with them.

Face your fears. Get uncomfortable. Life is a series of facts and you get to choose what meaning you attach to them. Choose wisely. Choose love. Choose God.

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