I look at myself in the mirror, checking the length of my hair while making sure it's adequately shiny and curling in all the right places. My eyes fall on my top and I'm making sure it's settling on my hips the way I like my tops to settle. I give it a little tug and smooth out the shoulders. Then, as I always do when I wear something other than my jeans and a t-shirt, I run my eyes up and down at myself in the mirror. I catch my eyes and move close to my reflection for one last glance of my make-up. After I approve of myself, I give myself a quick smile, spray 2 squirts of perfume on each wrist and my neck, and head out the door.
A little more than an hour later, I'm emptying my pockets and taking off my shoes to pass through a metal detector. I've never stood on this side of the metal detector. I've been inside prison walls, but never this far. I'm thinking about my brother and his eyes falling on similar walls from sun up to sun down for the last 15 years. Behind me is a kitchen; there are girls in there cleaning. They're wearing white shirts, white pants, white shoes and clear plastic gloves. None of them are talking to each other and none of them are smiling although their eyes are pointing in my direction. I don't realize that I'm staring at them until I notice one of them staring at me, wondering what I'm doing here as much as I'm wondering the same thing about her.
I feel so aware of myself. I drop my arms to my sides when I realize they're crossed in front of me and try to relax my shoulders. I smile politely at the girl I've been observing and tug at my top where it settles on my hips. I'm fidgeting with my earring when I realize I'm smiling too much and she's not returning the smile so I stop smiling but try to avoid a grimace or at least avoid appearing like I'm grimacing. Finally, I turn my face away and try to adjust my body to a more casual standing position.
We followed a young guard down a hallway that led to a courtyard. He was pulling a wagon with huge bags of popcorn that we brought with us. As we walked down the hallway we passed one of the prisoners who was standing there. She said she was going to take our popcorn and the guard said he would "spray" her if she even touched it. She looked like her feelings were hurt. I still don't know if they were both kidding. Well, I'm sure the guard wasn't.
We stepped into the sunshine and walked down a long side walk to the door leading into the "rec room". There were women inside, waiting for us. I was ready to be busy doing something so I didn't have to think about myself so much or get caught staring at people. I grabbed the popcorn bags and the scooper and decided to start filling the smaller popcorn bags. One of the prisoners said she was there to do that and I told her I would help her. Her name was Angel and she didn't smile very much. We filled 200 popcorn bags but she didn't stay for the movie because she doesn't like crowds.
After the women were patted down they filed in and grabbed a small Styrofoam cup of juice and a bag of popcorn. A man loudly told the women exactly where each of them were to sit. It reminded me of going to school assemblies and being told where to sit and then complaining to the teacher about where I was sitting or who I was sitting next to. It was hot in the "rec room" so they opened the doors. When everyone was seated, the lights were turned off and the movie was started and God began to move.
"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." John 3:8
Wind blew through my hair as I sat in the dark room made up of prison walls. Silently, I praised God for the sobs and laughter of the ones held captive. The One that holds me captive was speaking to my heart although I couldn't make out the words. At that very moment, I only knew I was right where I was supposed to be. I knew that this moment was written in His book long before I came to be. His hand was on my heart telling me to just feel; to just be present. I looked around at the heads of the women sitting in front of me. It didn't matter what they were there for, I just knew that God's hand was on their hearts too, telling them to just feel; to just be present. They were also right where they were supposed to be in that very moment.
I encountered God and wanted to stay there in the dark room made of prison walls and let the wind touch my face and blow my hair and I never wanted to leave. The movie ended and the lights came on. The women heard a good Word and as they were ushered out some of them thanked us as they wiped tears off their cheeks. All I could do was nod my head at them as if to say, "I'm thankful too." Then we left.
The shades of life covered the window that had been opened, blocking the sun, and I shielded the wind from blowing on me with bad attitude and busyness. I found myself far from what I felt behind the prison walls and felt sorry for myself and let negative seeds be planted in my heart. I found myself back at brokenness and telling my Father, "I'm trying as hard as I can.", forgetting that it's not about trying or being perfect and there's more going on than what we can see with our people-eyes.
This morning, I was worshiping. Not because I wanted to but because everyone else was. My hands were clasped in front of me and my eyes were open as I halfheartedly sang the songs. Halfway into the second song I closed my eyes so I would stop staring out the window. I was hearing the words now. I lifted my hands and I felt my Father's hand on my heart again saying, "Just be present."
Behind my closed eyes, he showed me an eclipse. My mind traced the ring of light around the dark circle and I was filled with awe. He was showing me my heart and told me to be in awe of my brokenness and worship Him through it because even the broken times are a light in the darkness.
"even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you." Psalm 139:12
"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." Ecclesiastes 3:11
Thank you God for laying your hand on me, such knowledge is too wonderful for me and too lofty for me to attain. Thank you for speaking to me. Thank you that your mercies are new every morning. I praise you God.