February 14, 2010
Sunday, 7:00 p.m.
Letter #122: Lean on Me
Greetings! My favorite Christian band, Casting Crowns, has a thought-provoking song that is an indictment on how lethargic the church has become toward the lost. Instead of reaching out to hurting people, we, like the religious leaders in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, walk right on by, consumed by our busy lives. In “If We Are the Body,” writer Mark Hall asks this tough question of every Believer: “If we are the Body (of Christ), why aren’t His arms reaching, why aren’t His hands healing, why aren’t His words teaching? And if we are the Body, why aren’t His feet going, why is His love not showing them there is a way? Jesus paid much too high a price for us to pick and choose who should come—and we are the Body of Christ!”
There are so many lost people on a prison yard—so many hurting, so many in bondage to all the same heart issues that brought them here years ago. It is easy to see the pained existence as “normal,” for if I can call it normal, I can ignore it. I can ignore the people behind the pain.
God has been trying hard to get me to see the people. He sees them. He has compassion on them. And He offers hope in the midst of their chaotic, messy, hurting, rejected world. Now, if only God could get His Body, the church, to notice the downtrodden, the weary, the needy—then maybe the lost could be found, the hurting healed, the lonely loved.
God has me using every bit of my time wisely—with a Heavenly purpose. He tells us that “whether you eat or drink—whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31, NLT). This has challenged me to put on the eyes of Jesus when I’m on the yard, to be Jesus to these men.
One guy I barely know asked me to have my family call his family to see if they’d sent him a package. My mom did so, finding out that there would be no package—his mother is gravely ill, her kidneys and liver shutting down after years of substance abuse. The man knew she was sick, but not the severity of it.
I knew I needed to tell him, so I got a couple Christian brothers and I gently conveyed the news to him. He sobbed on my shoulder as I spoke words of Jesus into his life: words of hope, healing, and a future in Heaven, as she has accepted Christ as her Savior. I gave him from my package what he needs.
I was really looking forward to receiving visits this weekend: a new visiting schedule cuts back our available visiting days to only every other week, so it had been a long two weeks since seeing my family. Visits were delayed for over two hours yesterday as the prison responded to a heavy blanket of fog with more patrols, tightened security, and an additional “Fog Count.”
At 10:30, those of us with visitors waiting were released to go to the visiting room, across the yard from our buildings. Inmates rushed out of the buildings and formed a line outside the visiting room, waiting their turn to be processed.
As I walked, I noticed a man coming from the medical building near the visiting room. Every inmate going to visiting had passed him. Holding a cane in one hand and leaning heavily onto a short railing with the other, he made his way toward my building, one painstaking step at a time. A cop who was escorting him offered no assistance, wheelchair, or powered cart.
I knew my parents were 50 feet away in the visiting room, but I had no other option. I offered—then insisted—my help, gently getting under his shoulder, my arm around him, lifting his waist.
We had 300 yards to go, and he needed to rest after every 30 paces. I ran and asked a sergeant, surrounded by eight officers, if I could please cut across the yard, saving 100 yards of distance. A couple of the officers laughed, joking that the guy would fall down on the grass, but I said, “No, because I’ll be carrying him.”
The sergeant said, “Take him cross the yard then.”
I ran back to the man, helped him up, and asked his name as we started across the expanse of grass towards his building. “Ra-Ra,” he said.
“Well, Ra-Ra,” I told him, “I’m only doing this for you because this is what Jesus would do. When I came to prison, I had to lean on Him pretty hard, and He still helps me walk every day.”
As I left him, I blessed him and ran, the last one of a large group, into visiting.
Later, as visits were cut short due to overcrowding, I watched as many of the guys who had walked right past Ra-Ra were forced to leave early. The 15 minutes I’d taken to be Jesus’ feet to a needy man were just enough time to keep me from being assigned a shortened visit. God is good!
Who is He needing you to be His hands for? Who can you speak His Words to?