I marvel at the demonstration of the connectivity of God! As I sat on December 17th, I recalled the deepened relationships that emerged before my very eyes. I graduated on December 17, 2003 with a doctorate degree. A close friend of mine, graduated on December 17, 2015 with a doctorate degree as well. Ten women, a few of whom I know also graduated on December 17, 2015 but from a job start program offered as they serve prison sentences. The untrained eye not directed by God might miss the connections, but if we consider that we are all standing as a result of the grace of God, then its not difficult to see God’s unchanging hand.
Our commonalities were insurmountable. We are mothers, daughters, and have each experienced love and loss. The thread that runs seamlessly through our narratives is our acknowledgement that without God we would be nothing. My friend and I both were single mothers, just as several of the women expressed. Each of us desire to make our children proud, and to feel loved in a world that may turn its back. Each of us have had to forgive ourselves for what we’ve done, and occasionally more importantly, what we’ve thought. We collectively stand upon Jeremiah 29:11 and have to stand upon it even when our feet feel as though they are sinking in quick sand. Just as one of the ten described, my friend and I have participated in throwing a “dump party,” ridding self (and thoughts) of that which can no longer provide sustainability, and that which hinders one from moving to where God has ordained. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what one of the ten said to the haters, “I’ve rid myself of the garbage of my past, and if you wish to play in my trash – that’s up to you!”
The beauty of December 17th was that all too often we played in our own trash. Self-doubt, disappointment, dreams deferred, pain, hurt, abuse, and unrequited love were our playmates on the playground. Other times, our imaginary friend known as fear kept time in the footsteps of life, leaving us immobile, opting for invisibility, as opposed to facing that which terrified us. As much as my friend and I have in common, the similarities to the women was astounding. Society would have us believe that we are distinct from those who are incarcerated. To a certain extent that belief may have some validity. And yet, there were grown women, who described their excitement about learning skills I’d learned in high school; learning to write a resume, create a powerpoint presentation, interviewing confidence and how to dress for success. My heart pounded as I considered how very different many of their lives had been if they’d had opportunity to be children, teenagers and young adults instead of being sexually abused, often by a family member, turning to substance abuse to dull the pain, or running away from the horror in their home, only to find horror in the arms of someone else. My heart broke as I listened to women describe dysfunctional and loveless relationships with their mothers, as I considered how loving my mother was to me, and how my friend and I both will go to the moon and back for our daughters. The reality is that many of the decisions perhaps dissimilar to the women were grounded in the fact that we grew up under the auspices of love. Now, we are knitted together because just as my friend and I acknowledge, so too did each of the ten women, these brave women, stood declaring the love of God over their lives and their determination never to act in a space where God does not exist.
I know you’re thinking, but God is omnipresent. Indeed. Therefore, when we invite Jesus the Christ to live inside of us, we can rest in John 1:4-5 that reads, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” As I listened to the women, as I firmly believe and continue to keep them lifted in the love of Christ, I pray against the darkness that may attempt to overtake them not only as they serve out their sentence but upon release. I further pray for those of us who have not found ourselves incarcerated to extend to them the opportunity they need, be it housing, access to transitional resources, employment, ministry and even a smile or word of encouragement. In many instances, these women demonstrated a liberation that many of us, free to come and go as we please will never know, because they have had a serious one on one with God, enabling the power of forgiveness to run rapid through their veins. The “ten” confessed the love of the Lord being the catalyst to get them through on December 17th, just as my friend did, just as I did 12 years ago. If the elements will indulge me to reconstruct just a tad bit, “Ba de ya, say do you remember, ba de ya, dancing in “December,” remember the true love we share today.” #John3:16
If you’d like to make a donation of your treasure, time and/or talent to assist with the empowerment of women like the ten described, please visit this link: Interfaith Prison Ministry for Women