Recently I had the privilege of going to a county jail to share my testimony with those incarcerated. Yes, I say privilege, because though these women were behind bars, we are alike in many ways.
They listened to my story of childhood dysfunction and abuse because they resonated remembering their childhood beginnings. Many had been abused and come from broken homes, where addictions ruled the adults and love was locked behind the prison bars of drugs and alcohol.
Among ones who could relate I shared my secret sin that once held me captive in a self-made prison.
When I was a young teen I became pregnant due to abuse. The adults in my life believed abortion was the best option for me. Tragically, my first pregnancy ended in abortion.
Many have said, well you shouldn’t feel guilty or badly about a choice that was made for you. You were just a child; it wasn’t your fault. True. But it was my child, and all I ever dreamed of as a little girl was being a mommy. So ending the life of my child was not something I could “just forget about and move on.”
I held myself responsible and punished myself with guilt and shame to the point of imprisonment. Over and over I tried my hardest to “make up” for what I had done.
Just like these women, sitting hopelessly behind bars, many of us are not behind physical bars, but have our own self-made prisons.
I stood among 34 inmates looking into faces desperate to be free, free physically from the bars they live behind. But beyond that, a deep longing to be free from the inner prison that holds them captive. I stood among sisters, and my heart resonated with them!
If you think about it, hopelessness is a prison, a stronghold, a fortress. It keeps its captive in chains, unable to move freely, unable to make every day basic decisions.
Hopelessness steals the joy and desire to go on from those who are enchained by it.
Hopelessness is no respecter of person…none of us are untouchable.
Having experienced hopelessness and being locked in a self-made prison is the reason why it was a privilege to be among the 34 inmates whose faces are flashing through my mind as I type.
To be able to say, “Sisters, I have never been behind physical bars, but I’ve been held captive by hopelessness. Perhaps the same hopelessness that brought many of you to this place.”
I am no different from you….we are each created in God’s image and He loves us no matter what and He comes to us like a wrecking ball.
Here I stand once overwhelmed by many bricks in my self-made prison. I’ve actually entrapped myself one brick at a time. Lie after lie. Each time I repeat the lies such as, “No one will ever really love me”–add mortar to the brick, seal it in real good. “I must protect and keep out the bad from happening. I can’t trust anyone because eventually they will turn on me and walk away, leaving me all alone to survive.” Another brick, more mortar. “I’m never going to accomplish much in life, I’m nothing but a dreamer.”
Brick upon brick now closing in larger and larger on the space around me. Turn and see another hole that needs mortar: “Look what you’ve done. If anyone ever knew your secret sin they would reject you. Look at you…” Sling more mortar. Seal it in good, never going to get out, never going to let anyone in.
Yet when I step back and look up, to the areas I cannot reach, there is still open sky. There is still a way for love to come down, for truth to be a wrecking ball in my self-made fortress. God never gives up on the hopeless. He never stops pursuing the weary and He always stands with truth that will destroy, sometimes brick-by-brick and sometimes layer-by -layer. His Word is mighty to save to demolishing strongholds and every lofty thing that exalts itself against Him.
There in my upward view is hope! God reaching down to rescue me from my self-made prison, to pull me out of my pit of despair, and to right my wrong thinking….if only I will reach up and find that He is not far off at all; He is near to the brokenhearted. He is well acquainted with the pain—with each brick, and yet He never gives up on me. Come Lord Jesus Come!
These lies, these bricks they do not define me.
What was once erected brick-by-brick as a means to protect grew so out of control. The bricks and mortar are what I turned to for safety, for my identity.
No More! No more will I listen to the lies written on each brick before it was placed. No more will I walk around with my bucket of mortar patching holes.
No more will I turn to them for safety and protection when there is ONE who will annihilate each and every brick, rendering them to the finest dust that will be blown away when He opens His mouth to speak!
One who holds the eternal mortar that defines who I am that shines light eternal on my face…on my heart…on my life. His mortar is love, His mortar is truth! His mortar seals for good. His mortar never needs patching or repair. He is the master brick layer, our Mighty Fortress!
While I shared my heart wrenching story, the 34 listened as I watched tears stream down their faces, and ultimately turn to joy as I shared how I never imagined, after all that I have been through, that life would be what it is today.
I am who I am today because I choose to accept the invitation that God Himself hand delivered to me through the death of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross. The same invitation offered to each who will accept.
Instead of quoting John 3:16 to the women, I asked them to quote it with me. The room swelled with the echoing sound of God’s Word being spoken in unison. They knew it! But did they believe it? That was the question poised to them.
Each of us has to make a choice to believe.
Heads bowed and prayers went up. At the amen I asked if any would be brave enough to raise their hand and let us know if they choose to believe that God loves them so much He sent His Son to die for their sins and if they believed they would be forgiven. The hands went up so fast it took my breath away. There I stood in the midst of fellow believers while all of Heaven’s Angels were rejoicing over the ones who had just come home!
This is why I am humbled beyond measure, to know that God had a plan for my pain and hopelessness. That what man intended for evil God intended for good. These women…these precious sisters joined together by His love as hope swelled and filled the room.
Do you believe there is hope to be set free for your self-made prison? Invite God and His truth in to be the wrecking ball. I’m privileged to sojourn with you and would love to hear how He’s setting you free! Please share in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org