I spent 2 days in Huntsville. Standing on concrete. Hands through the bars that secure 7’x9′ rooms containing two bunks, a small seat and a steel toilet. I heard stories from men in their 20s through their 80s. Black, latino, white. All putting their faith … possibly in blind desperation … in God. A Vietnam vet who claims innocence. A recurring petty criminal. A man who made a mistake in judgement and is desperate to restore what is probably already lost.
I sat in the mess hall. The food is inedible by most standards. A large room with concrete floors worn down by millions of steps and the diluted bleach water that washes it daily. Stainless steel tables and short stool seats. I spoke to people whose spouses moved on. To people who shared wisdom (Listen to a woman, she’ll tell you everything you need … just let her talk and listen). And people who shared hope of a plan for the other side, owning a business, restoring relationships with their kids.
I stood in the prison yard. Shaken by the faith of men whose daily lives are dim and dingy; life lived walking single file in the shadow of walls painted white, yet not bright.
“How much longer you have left?,” I ask. “Until God is through using me here.” Men singing hymns and worship songs a capella. Harmonizing Amazing Grace, hand in hand with men who got caught. Prayers and praises. Men with damp eyes, stirred by their love of their brother and their Father.
The God of the Israelites is a God of those in bondage. Many who went with me inside the walls felt convicted about their lack of faith compared to the men we met. I realized that the faith of the prisoner made sense. No cell phones, no internet. No project timelines or budgets. 3 meals, confinement. Ambition fuels frustration in this place. Faith soothes. Of course God soars in prison for those open to Him.
The people have the freedom to worship and show true gratitude for what they have. They learn the power of His forgiveness in the face of the hard unforgiveness of society.
We chase dreams that are illusions. Seeking what we see as wise, all the while being fools. They have only God to chase. Yet, do I want that for myself. No.
How much of testimony is it that I’d rather die to the sin of the world and its wealth of distractions and baubles than find the love of Christ renew itself daily in my heart, birthing, immaculately, graceful salvation. Freedom can be found in captivity. It just depends what’s holding you captive.
Note: Prison is an phenomenally ugly place filled with pain, addiction, abuse and violence. I saw that, too. This post is about the glimmer of light I saw while in a dark place. I found one of the most uplift moments of my life in the prison yard. This doesn’t diminish the massive damage perpetuated by a dysfunctional system.