Friday, September 26, 2014

Broken And Beautiful, Even In Prison

Why am I always surprised that doing something to minister to someone else ALWAYS winds up being a tremendous blessing to my own heart?

This is my third Broken and Beautiful conference at a women's prison.  Two women from church spoke tonight.  One I had heard before, and was still blessed to hear again.  Another story I had never heard, and was from a girl I don't know well.  She's a little younger than I am, and always super friendly, but we just don't have the chance to really sit and talk much.  Tonight made me want to change that.

Hearing her story tonight made me weep.  I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around it.  It wasn't that her story is so vastly different from others I have heard, though admittedly it is, if that makes any sense.  The overall theme of redemption is the same.  But her struggles are not so far in the past as others.  Some people have dealt with addictions and overcome things from years and years ago.

But not this girl.  She is currently overcoming.  She is experiencing victory right now, but in the shadow of a very recent relapse.  I don't think it was the relapse part that struck me so hard though.  Maybe part of it was the natural flow of her story.  Maybe it was just that I stupidly do what we all do and thought that there was no way she would have made the mistakes she has made in her life, some that so closely mirror my own.  I mean really?  Who are any of us to look at someone and just assume they are perfect?  It isn't that I thought she was perfect or that finding out she wasn't changed my view of her.  I don't know...I'm having trouble putting words to it.  At the end of the day, hearing her testimony tonight moved me in a way I didn't expect it to.  Even though I have never been a drug or alcohol addict or in recovery for those specific vices, for some reason when she spoke tonight, I felt as if I were the inmate in the correctional facility hearing her speak.  There really aren't words to fully explain what feelings it evoked in me, except that it just really made me want to get to know her better and partner with her as she walks through this path to healing and recovery.

Her story touched so many others too...God's presence was so incredibly real tonight in that prison.  Not that it hasn't been on other occasions. But something was different tonight-almost as if there were an electricity in the air there.  And I think everyone, volunteers and inmates alike felt it.  We've had people thank us for coming, for sharing our stories before.  But tonight?  Tonight was different.  People began to really open up.  One woman stood up to say that she came to the conference because of her she explained herself in more detail, she told us that she had been sharing the gospel with her roommate and was really only at the conference to support her roommate.  The one sharing the gospel is actually being released from prison next week, and is passionate about her roommate turning to God.  And so she came along tonight for the sole purpose of sitting next to her "sister" - and the other girl shared how much one of the testimonies spoke to her heart!

Another girl was crying and telling us about how awful her morning had been and how attending the conference tonight gave her hope to keep going a little longer.  That's what this is all about!  It's all about hope.  Everything I do comes back to that.  My desire in this life is that everyone understand that it doesn't matter what you are facing.  There is always hope.  And that woman found a little hope to hold onto tonight.  God showed up, and he made his presence known.

And I am always amazed, though I shouldn't be, that when I try to do something for someone else like this, He ALWAYS teaches me something, or blesses me in a way I didn't think possible.  And going back to the young girl whose story so touched my heart tonight - she was a reminder to me of why I share my story.  She talked about how her relapse was brought into the light.  And it reminded me that this is why I write.  This is why I am unafraid to tell other women what I've done.  Because not only is there a chance that someone might find the strength to hold on, or hear a message of hope...but it keeps me accountable.  Being vulnerable and transparent with others regularly reminds me that I am always one step away from going back to my sin.  And if I make a concentrated effort to tell my story and remember just how good God has been to me and how he has softened my heart, then I know that I can resist the devil when the temptation to turn to other methods of coping with life's pain come at me.

I was inspired tonight and encouraged to keep sharing my story.  I just love what God is doing in my life, and in my heart.  And I love that I have been given this opportunity to go into this women's prison and share that I too have made mistakes.  And maybe I didn't get caught and arrested, but I am no different than any other woman who has been sentenced to do time at that prison.  I have made mistakes.  So many mistakes.  But God is using those mistakes and he is making beautiful things out of them.  I've used this song before, but it feels appropriate to share again tonight.  It is the song that played after the testimony I heard tonight that touched my heart so deeply and was just another good reminder of God's healing in my own life.

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