If the saying is true, when a baby is born, it’s a sign that God still wants the world to go on, wouldn’t it also be true, when a soul is birthed anew, God is not yet finished in His work of redemption? No matter how far a soul has strayed, no matter how beat up and bruised she is.
Rose and I met in the county jail. Circumstances and life choices had taken her on an unexpected detour, to a less than desirable place… not only to a cold alcove behind bars, but to the end of her options.
Or to the place with only one option: choose to change—and avoid the revolving door.
Yet, arriving there convinced her of the need to make a decision.
On that Sunday evening last summer three ladies entered the tiny room for the weekly church service. After introductions, hugs, rearranging chairs, we squeezed around the table to begin.
Depending on who comes, how long they’ve been there, who the new girls are, we spend a few minutes catching up. I pass around the prayer journal and a pencil. Sometimes they tell me who’s in, who’s out, who’s in rehab, or what the judge decided in court last week.
We sing a couple praise songs from lyrics printed on plain white paper. Before we’re done singing, the new girl’s in tears. Without a word I reach into the back of my Bible for a tissue. Accepting it, she smiles, wipes her nose and eyes, trying hard not to fall apart.
The one seated next to her usually reaches her arm around her shoulders. Because she misses her family, too. And because she knows she messed up—they’ve all messed up.
Because when she’s off the drugs, away from the alcohol, her mind is clear. And she’s faced with how much she hates her life, hates what it’s done to her, where it’s brought her. But she’s lived this way for so long, she doesn’t know anything else.
If the group has been there for a while, if they’ve worked through their differences… found friendship in being found by God and discovering faith, even if it’s a dusted off version from childhood… hope flickers behind steel bars and cement block walls.
Where no one enters or leaves without express permission. Amazingly though, it’s a place where women connect. Women, possessing shared desires for love and a life worth living and finding pursuits that lead to happiness.
In the cramped space the Holy Spirit is always welcome, always available for those recognizing their need. Not only is He a Master at making His presence known, He’s the only One who can bring change.
That night would change Rose’s life. Never before had she found herself behind bars. With her permission I share her story.
Through a friend I knew two things: her name and the fact that she and her mother wanted nothing to do with Christianity. Her mom’s caregiver is a friend. That morning she told me about Rose, where she was and why.
In the jail church attendance is optional. With her background I didn’t expect her to come. Yet, not only did she come, she opened her heart. Tentative at first, the words began spilling out, as she traced over the events of weeks and months prior.
Being here is exactly where I need to be, she said. And this is exactly what I need.
Everything else faded in importance. The rest of us sat still, letting her talk.
I’m sorry, I don’t mean to monopolize the conversation, she said. But we didn’t mind. God has a way of surprising us when we least expect it. And we were thrilled!
What I learned in that short hour and what she came to realize was, how God had been patiently drawing her for so many years, even while she resisted His pursuit.
I do have a few Christian friends, she said, and it’s only when I’m with them, I feel… peace.
There at her lowest point, I listened, answered her questions, explained faith and the workings of the Christian life—praying for wisdom the entire time.
She hung on every word—listening, absorbing, weighing. And she agreed. Wow! All the years her mom pointed her away from Christ, others had pointed her to Him, planting seeds, watering seeds, praying for those seeds to take root, and waiting for harvest.
By that time I’d been going into the jail for close to five years. Seeing so little fruit and seeing the same girls return left me wondering if the efforts are worth it. But on this night I had no doubts.
After returning to their cells, I learned later, Rose prayed. I can’t do this anymore, God. Please help me.
She walked out the next day. Her believing friends were there, surrounding her, supporting her, helping her get back on her feet. And opportunities opened up. She called me to share the news.
A few nights later we had another chance to talk. She told me more about her life, how awed she was at the way God placed her behind those walls and reduced her to nothing. With nowhere else to go, she was ready to turn to Him.
And she glowed! I used to feel old and alone, weighed down. But not anymore.
No longer the same, she really did become a new creation—a child whose Father whispers, I’m right here and I’ve got your back. Even when talking about it months later, she gets teary-eyed.
I gave her a Bible, a devotional book and a journal. Reading a few verses, I explained their meaning, and shared personal experiences of God’s power and grace at work in my life. After an hour-and-a-half slipped by, we prayed and hugged, hating to part ways. But the outside world beckoned and family members stood waiting. So we said our Good-byes.
From that week on we’ve felt a bond, like mother and daughter. I pray for her as sincerely as I pray for my own flesh and blood. We meet for coffee, send emails, talk on the phone, and at times she comes to church. This past year has seen its ups and downs, but she’s making progress. What matters most: she and I know God’s still got her back.
Last month she called me. I opened the Bible you gave me today, and realized the date was exactly one year ago! Do you remember when we first met?
How could I not?