The sound of praise music filling my mini-van didn't calm the argument blaring in my mind, "Someone might see me. I don't want to do this. Prison. I can't believe I'm doing this...I can't believe I'm thinking this way. I shouldn't care if someone sees me walking into a prison." But I did.
I was out of my element; my comfort zone crumbled around me. I had all kinds of preconceived ideas--judgments ruling my thinking. I nearly shook as I handed the officer at the prison gate my ID, and when he asked for my license and quipped, "You'd be surprised how many people are driving around without a license", I was appalled. The country girl who left home years ago for the burbs of the big city was now driving through the gate of the county jail.
"Lord, what am I doing here?" I whispered.
The waiting room was crowded. People of all shapes, sizes and colors stood in line--another check point. A little one clung to her mother' s legs while her baby brother rested in an infant carrier suspended by his mother's arm. I smiled nervously as her big brown eyes peered up at me while I waited to show my ID to the CO (Corrections Officer) standing at the counter behind bullet-proof glass.
"Mam, are you chewing gum?" I nodded. "You need to spit it out," the CO said into the microphone as she passed my ID back through a small opening, our fingers unable to touch. "Take a seat."
I found an open chair and I waited. And I judged. "Who's she here to see? A boy friend no doubt." Her belly was swollen with the promise of new life, yet I couldn't see a ring on her finger. "She's having the babies and raising them while he's serving the time." I rolled my eyes. "Why are some women so stupid." And my trips to the prison continued for weeks along with my judgments until...
Perhaps it was those little eyes that innocently peered up at me each week reminding me of my own children, or the conversations I had with the grandmother who faithfully visited her granddaughter every week reminding me of the love my mother has for her grandchildren, or the blond-haired woman who wanted her son to know she stilled loved him...no matter what...who looked a lot like me ...I don't know, but my heart changed. My judgments turned into observations. Where I was once blind, I now began to see. This country girl was no different than the people she spent her Thursday afternoons with each week at the county prison. And from that moment forward, I didn't care who saw me drive into that prison. I was free.
Our second step in walking beside someone on their road toward redemption requires us to break out of the prison of our preconceived ideas. As we pray for changes in those we long to see change, we must be willing to let God change us. (For first step, see post entitled "Baby Steps", June 24th, 2009)