Tornadoes are ripping across our country, its amazing to see the devastation and feel the sense of smallness in our world. Lives are being changed each moment as the weather whips and whirls around us. Fires are burning up acres and acres of land, homes, possessions; taking the lives of firefighters and we are almost helpless against it all.
Monday night I sat with nine women serving at least a one year sentence at the Woodman State Jail. To most who look in on this exchange, we cannot imagine anything more devastating as being convicted of a crime and being in prison for even a night! But then we watch the news and are reminded that there are more frightening experiences and more devastating experiences.
As the ten of us talked, I asked them, "Is this the worst experience of your life? the hardest thing you've ever had to endure?" I was not surprised (of course I've lived behind bars and I knew the answer.) as heads shook back and forth; no this was not the hardest thing they'd ever lived through. We found a common ground.
This was not the worst. In only a short hour we had already begun learning that our lives had been intersected with common ground; abuse, neglect, sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse, drug use, bad trips on bad drugs, addiction, loss, harsh pimps, crime in our homes against us.
While each of us in that room had committed crime, we all were able to identify at least one crime perpetrated against us. We were reminded of loss, death, abandonment and devastating, final, terminal conditions in our lives. And like those experiencing the tornadoes, floods and fires currently washing across our country, we knew that no matter how limiting, harsh and frightening prison and jail are, no matter how much we have already endured; our hope lies somewhere else.
Our hope, our ability to wake up in the morning, face the devastation of life - we have to believe in something grander, larger, more loving and compassionate that our current condition. Our hope lies in our redeemer who has in store for us outcomes we cannot know. And like those staring at the rubble of their homes, those in prison stare daily at the rubble of their lives and yet still believe that life can be okay, different, better, more, full, abundant, joyful.
The evening ended with prayer and hugs. Women, many who are not friends, who are not kind or cordial inside those walls with one another, began to find a common place to come together and a common means to be moved by their shared stories and lives. And in the end, when the dust clears and the wind calms, what matters most is the calm that is faith in Jesus Christ.
Let the storms come as they will, let the heartache flood us and let our circumstances be what they will; for in the end we must learn to trust in the One who created us, loves us and knows what our lives are to be. Prison, fire, flood; joy, peace, calm. Some things are not our choice, our responses always are!