Hard and Honest /

Now I knew how I knew her.  She was just very, very different than the last time I had seen her.  

I recognized her when she first came through the door at the jail.  I wasn’t sure why.  I see a lot of people in the community in my various roles as Minister, Deputy Sheriff and just plain neighbor and shopper so I couldn’t place her, but her face, voice and mannerisms were very familiar.  She was there with her husband, the Pastor who was speaking that night at the jail chapel service whom I had met once before.  We chatted a bit before going up to the top floor where the gym is located and where we hold chapel services.

Sometimes at chapel, there are song services.  Sometimes there are long sermons.  Sometimes there are interactive bible lessons.  This night it was testimony time.

Before her husband brought the word from the gospel, and his own testimony, she stood up and gave hers.  She started out by saying that the Grant County jail had been, for many years, her home away from home.  She had gone to prison four times and had been in the jail more times that she could count.  She had been a drug addict, an armed robber, a prostitute and a drug dealer.  Now I knew how I knew her.  She was just very, very different than the last time I had seen her, nearly four years earlier when I had transported her to prison from the jail.  I had also seen her in chapel a couple times before that.

As she told her testimony of finally coming to Christ while in prison her last time, she said that she had always blamed everything in her life on everyone around her and she knew that most of the men sitting before her were probably doing the same even then.  She made it clear to everyone there that until they accepted the responsibility for their own actions and sought forgiveness for that, they would never break the cycle of why they were there right now.

As she spoke candidly about the fact that she had been a mean, selfish, wicked person; that she had been a terrible mother and had used everyone in her life for her own selfish desires she challenged the men sitting before her.

“How many of you are up in here because you use drugs?”  She asked of them.  Due to her candidness, all but three raised their hands.

“How many of you are up in here because you are drug dealers?”  The other three raised their hands.  They could not resist the honesty that was coming from her.  They responded with honesty.

They say there is some good that can come from every situation.  I had wondered about the “good” that could come from the current opioid addiction epidemic

She went on to tell them that the drugs and the alcohol, whether using or selling was not the problem, they were a symptom of the problem and until they figured that out they would never be free of it.

When she finished her testimony, her husband got up and gave his as he brought the gospel.  He is a four-time convicted felon who had used every type of drug I knew of.  He told of the grace of Christ and how it had set him free from all of that and that it could do the same for the 30 or so men sitting before him in orange jump suits.

They say there is some good that can come from every situation.  I had wondered about the “good” that could come from the current opioid addiction epidemic that is across our culture.  This night I realized what it was.  For decades “druggies” have been looked at as weak people who have done this to themselves and so deserve what they get.  Most “decent” people just shook their heads at the “dirtbags” and went on with their lives.

Right now there is rarely a person who does not know someone; decent, productive members of society, who have become damaged severely by the effects of heroin and other opioids.  People who drive mini-vans to PTA meetings are putting needles into their arms and slowly, slowly the “normal” members of society are realizing that this is destroying lives across the spectrum; black, white, Hispanic, rich, poor and middle class, atheists and people who have grown up in church.

It is also making people who would never have “lowered” themselves to kneeling before Christ realize that they aren’t strong enough to get through this (or any other part of life) on their own.  That only through the love of God can they be whole and address that emptiness and hurt inside that they are trying to fill with the drugs.  That only when they admit that they are at fault for the problems in their lives and come to the one who loves them unconditionally and is always ready to forgive can they really find peace and joy through Him.

As I took these thirty hard men back to their cell blocks; men hard enough to take a beating and not utter a sound, men hard enough to live in the prison system and never break, no less than ten of them were in tears.  Almost every one of them had softened expressions on their faces as you could literally see them thinking about what they had just heard.  Because two people who knew exactly what they were going through cared enough about them to challenge them with honesty and get in their faces and tell them that Jesus Christ was the only way out of where they have been, most of them, for all of their lives.