Today, I volunteered for my second meeting at the jail. These girls/ladies teach me so much. My fearless leader, (aka my Al Anon leader) who will never accept that title.....but who lovingly leads....quietly, soothing each fear and insecurity in her ever so approachable way, asked me to join her because 2 volunteers are needed at the jail and no one else was available. I went.
If you had asked me just one year ago if I would ever volunteer at a jail, I would have said, "absolutely not !!" My perspective one year later, finds this experience to be a great blessing. Like most people, a year ago, I might have thought that these people were reaping the fruits of their actions. I, most likely would have had any number of judgements swirling around in my mind. But, since this time 13 months ago, I, like them, have been broken.
There is beauty in our brokenness. I would have never understood that before. But, when something like addiction rocks you to the core, you finally have the courage to let down your guard, lose all those protective barriers, confess all those dark haunting sins and know that only by throwing your arms wide open and walking directly into your personal pain, will you ever have the chance to experience a different life. Brokenness opens the door to conversion.
Some of these girls are the victims of some pretty awful circumstances and abuses. Most of them are smart but have been poorly educated. If they are pulling the wool over my eyes, it is because this behavior has always helped them to survive.
Today, they opened up a lot more. I have no reference for how long this takes, but my fearless leader says that they are trusting sooner than usual. She is pleased....so I am too. There were two ladies in particular who talked about how they felt that forgiving those who abused them, let them off the hook. We tried to tell them that by not forgiving, they allowed their abuser to steal away a piece of them that could be used to explore their gifts. Letting go is a gift to them not the abuser. One lady has such tremendous guilt over her actions and how they are affecting her children. Like most of us, they are stuck. Feverishly hanging onto our sins as if we don't trust that we can be forgiven while allowing the shame and consequences of our bad choices define us.
The beauty of "the bottom" is that at that place we are ready to let go and start to hope for something different. We are ready to confess our sins and plead for forgiveness and another chance. We finally feel worthy of forgiveness.
Before the meeting I always say a little prayer that God will help me to use only His words and that He will help me to keep my mouth closed when I need to (a recurring problem).
A couple of the girls had a really hard time articulating the guilt they felt and the worthiness to expect anything different. It was at that time that I heard myself say, "there but for the grace of God go I." God's words I am sure, for I didn't plan them....they just popped out. I went on to say, "that means that if I were born into your circumstances, or yours, or yours.....would I be any better or different? If you had been born into mine, would you be different? I had loving parents who didn't drink or do drugs. I wasn't abused. Who am I to judge someone who had to endure all of that?" "We are all children created by God. I am no better than anyone here. I got lucky growing up, but I screwed up with my own son by not making sure he felt unconditional love." My eyes moved around the room, making eye contact with every girl who would meet my gaze as I said, "we are no different, in God's eyes, we can only learn and support one another and when you get on your feet, give back."
With tear filled eyes, two people mouthed thank you. I say thank you to God, for the privilege of being His messenger, for the gift of His words and for the hope He brings. I am so blessed. Mother Teresa was right. Americans are spiritually starving. At the end of each meeting we form a circle, hold hands and say the "Our Father". I took this one girl's hand and she winced. I looked down and her hand was terribly swollen. "Oh, I'm so sorry" as I let go. "You can still hold my hand, just don't twist it." I held her wrist and hugged her when we finished.
We all crave love without judgement. These girls crave our touch, acceptance and love. Today I realized what an unworthy servant I am. I have frittered away so many opportunities and been given so many advantages.
Today I am thankful for this vision given with this new opportunity. I am thankful that I am allowed the privilege of His service. I pray that the stigma of addiction, alcoholism, those who are in jail and so many other things will be seen as the marks of Christ dying for our sins. I pray that we can help to feed the spiritual starvation of our world. And, I say a prayer for all addicts and Henry.