As we sat in a circle with the inmates last night in our county jail, I was reminded once again of how much hurt and pain are in this world
Tears, regrets, fears, questions, failures.
Every negative emotion the devil can stir up moves through the stale air in a jail cell.
Matching orange scrubs on every woman adds to the feeling of equal despair, equal pain, and equal failure.
Something happens while we are there, though.
As we share the love of Jesus with these women who are just like us in so many ways
-moms, sisters, cousins, wives, aunts, daughters-
all of the negativity seems to somehow lift.
We share our stories.
They share theirs.
Slowly the old air is replaced with a fresh breeze of hope, laughter, love, and a feeling of God's presence that seems to transform the evening into a time of fellowship.
I love the women in jail.
I love them because they are real.
They can't hide their pain behind make-up or fancy clothes.
They can't find comfort in what they own, because they've been stripped of everything material.
These women have reached the lowest valley.
The bottom of the deepest pit.
And somehow they find the strength to smile.
The will to dream.
The courage to hope.
I learn more about God's love every time I sit with these women.
Last night as we baptized three more ladies, I was brought to tears as one of them could barely repeat her confession of faith through her trembling lips and her apparent speech problem.
She pushed through her stuttering and slurring of words to say,
"I believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God, and I accept Him as my personal Savior."
As she repeated the words we spoke just a few at a time, my voice became shaky.
I wanted to stop and spare her the agony,
but she pressed on.
As she ended the sentence with "my personal Savior," she smiled the biggest smile.
Then she went under the water.
Just a tank of water in a large concrete room.
But as she came up and as the other women came up,
the relief was evident in their faces.
They had humbled themselves enough to wash it all away.
All the mistakes.
All the regrets.
All the baggage.
Life won't be perfect now.
We always remind them of that.
But here's what changed for them last night.
They have the Holy Spirit now.
They have a Comforter who lives in them and walks with them.
Suddenly their valley isn't so lonely, their pit isn't so hollow.
Being in a jail cell reminds me that freedom in Christ can happen anywhere!
Being in a jail cell reminds me that God's love knows no boundaries.
There's nothing too wrong for Him to make right.
There's nothing too ugly for Him to make beautiful.
He casts our sins as far as the east is from the west.
He makes all things new.
Transformation happens when we meet Jesus at the cross and accept what He did for us there.
There's something about spending time with women who need Him so desperately that reminds me of just how much I need Him too.
I'm thankful today for my sisters in Christ who are behind bars.
Their freedom in Christ is no different than mine.
Christ paid the same price for us all.
II Cor. 3:17
Now the Lord is the Spirit,
and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is freedom.