In the year 2006 most of my weekends were spent visiting my youngest son at a State Penitentiary. This went on for too many years and it began to take its toll on me and my family. There were days it felt like the pain, fear, and disappointment would never end. There were other days I’d find myself distracted with thoughts of how it would end. Unfortunately, both left me with anxiety.
During these troublesome and heart wrenching years I worked hard to stay focused on life, my job, and keeping what was left of my family on track. Had it not been for my faith in God I truly don’t know where I would be today. When the reality of what our family faced raised its ugly head, the fear inside gripped every muscle in my being and captivated every thought. Panic attacks would enter in at the most inopportune times and no matter where I was, I would make a mad dash for the nearest restroom. I would hide in a stall praying, while trying to calm myself and my breathing, hoping no one would walk in on me. God was watching out for me because no one ever did. After what felt like long periods of time, I would straighten my clothes, push the hair back from my sweaty face and walk over to the sink. I would wash my face and look at myself in the mirror in disbelief. I wondered if I would be able to handle all that was going on around me.
There were days my faith was weak and I could not pray. I found myself going through the motions and just waiting for the day to end. It wasn’t like I looked forward to tomorrow. I just needed to get through the day. That became my prayer, “Lord, please just get me through the day, Amen.”
In the beginning there were many nights I’d fall asleep next to my Bible instead of reading it. I found it painful to read but also knew it was the one thing no one could take from me. It was the one thing that would never change. It felt like an old friend I knew would be there when I was ready to embrace it again. It would be waiting for me to open back up, and I would once again soak in the truth of God’s love for me and my family. Please don’t misunderstand, in no way did I blame God for anything my family and I were experiencing. Sometimes in life we suffer at the hands of others, and other times we suffer from our own bad choices.
The artwork on the wall in my home office reminds me of that season of life. The framed drawings bring back memories of a time I felt paralyzed in different areas of life. They remind me of how I had to come to the end of myself, to find myself. It was there I could fully understand God’s unconditional love.
As I admire this artwork drawn by prisoners, I am reminded of how everyone has a story. Some stories end well, others don’t. What I find important is the men behind these drawings. The talent and passion that came with the hope that maybe someone would recognize them for much more than their troubles and dark places that brought them to this place of confinement.
Had they foreseen the wasted years in the desert land of a living hell, would they have made better choices? I wonder if those nearby would have heard their cry for help and came to their aid? Were those they counted on most, the ones who turned their back? Is the rejection of others what pushed them to go the wrong way?
There was a day I believed in the judicial system from years of being married to a police officer. Yet In this hard season I found myself awakened to the truth of what the other side of the law looks like. I saw firsthand how the system doesn’t work. I learned there is no “real” rehabilitation in prison. I saw for myself how it has always been a housing unit for the rebellious, unloved, abused, unpopular kids and those who give themselves over to plain evil.
It was the system I despised the most, that God used to soften my heart. The heart that had become hardened through years of being married to a police officer was learning to love others in a new way. It was the experience of heartache and loss in my own family that opened my eyes and expanded the truth of God’s love for this world. It broke my heart in new areas I never knew existed because I was too good, too prideful and busy to care about anything that would never touch me or anyone I loved. Or so I believed.
Today as I look up from my desk and see the drawings on my wall staring back at me, I see hope. The hope God planted deep inside of me that helped me not give up. The inspiration hope brings through the support of others during challenging times. A hope that left me feeling loved and cared for when I felt unlovable and like a failure as a Mom. The hope that came through provisions that looked impossible but God said, “Nothing is impossible with me!” These are just a few of the different ways God showed up and said, “I am with you to the end and I will never forsake you.”
If you’re feeling like you’ve lost hope or someone you care for has lost hope then I want to leave you encouraged. The truth will set you free and God’s promise to never leave you will pull you through to the other side, if you let him:
*For nothing will be impossible with God. Luke 1:37
*I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
* Fear thou not; for I [am] with thee: be not dismayed; for I [am] thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I
will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Isaiah 41:10 KJV
*Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, [and] there is nothing too hard for thee. Jeremiah 32:17 KJV
*What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31 ESV
*No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV