I hired a prisoner yesterday. Well, actually, a former prisoner. Just out of the slammer. Spent two years behind bars and that wasn’t his first stint—in prison, that is.
$150 to his name. Rent due September 1.
No job yet but he’s hunting hard. Anyone want to hire a prisoner set free?
Yeah, he’s made bad choices. Haven’t we all?
Yeah, he’s suffering the consequences. Aren’t we all?
Whether we have $150 in our pockets or millions in our portfolio, we’re all kind of poverty-stricken souls, aren’t we? It’s just that some of us know our need and others of us NEED to know our need.
He shakes my hand firmly. Looks me squarely in the eyes. I don’t know why I want to cry—not yet.
He’s eager and ready to work. Needs to dig and pull and smooth. Needs to plant and water and make beautiful what was overgrown and tangled and ugly. Needs to see with his own eyes how something can be transformed into amazing when one allows oneself to be viewed and treated with grace. Now I know why I feel like crying.
I need what he needs.
I saw him working in the pelting rain, soaked straight through, refusing to stop. He’s hungry to start fresh—to have another chance. He’s needy and grateful for grace.
But this man seems to receive grace more gracefully than I. Perhaps because he’s desperate . . .
Because truth is, accepting grace—accepting something you don’t deserve and never earned—well, that takes a humbling. That takes a belly-up vulnerable.
I guess prisons can do that to you sooner or later—this humbling—this stripping of veneers—this accepting of what you don’t deserve.
I guess when the door slams behind you, when you’re caught and caged like an animal, dressed all alike, and the lights go out, and you’re all alone, forgotten by the world who’d rather pin all our busted and stained souls on you so we can keep thinking we’re the clean ones, the free ones—well then, we get to keep pretending with one another that WE are not the ones behind bars.
Except . . .
Truth is . . .
We’re all behind bars, more or less. Yes, Jesus came to set the captives free. But who of us has completely walked away from our prison cells?
We’re all wrapped up in this locked up, sin-stained predicament together, more or less.
And, more or less, we keep trying our best to clean up our acts—or hide in the corners of our filthy cells making our tiny, pitiful soul-spaces seem like pristine palaces.
But we know.
Deep down we know.
Unless we’ve become so calloused, so hardened, so anti-Christ that we don’t know who He created us to be because we’ve been so deceived by the devil himself.
I’m more or less like Lazarus, I think. Same as the ex-con working for me.
We both know Christ. And Christ knows the soul-wounds even we don’t know. Yet, Jesus has called us out, like Lazarus, raising us up, unwrapping, inviting us into more and more free.
So why do we keep clinging to death cloths—to the fabric of our fears? Why do we keep claiming our captivity, keep staying in cages with wide open doors?
Because salvation is an event. Healing is a process. And healing takes cooperation with Jesus.
We need Love to open all the unlocked doors we’re afraid to push even an inch. And then we need to let Love come near, no matter how scared.
We need Love to walk into the dark corners where we crouch, afraid of Love’s Light. And then, we need to take Love’s outstretched hand.
We need Love to kneel down beside and touch our tender confined. And then, we need to stand up with His help and follow Him out, wherever He leads.
Yesterday, I looked upon his handiwork—this man in my yard, once bound now free—amazed at what he accomplished. I looked at this man and what did I see?
I saw me.
A prisoner set free.
Maybe the point of feeding the hungry, watering the thirsty, tending the sick, visiting the imprisoned, adopting the orphaned, is the realization that we’re all cut from the same cloth—ripped, worn thin, in need of repair.
Maybe the point of staring into the eyes of our “brothers” and “sisters” we think are so different is to show us we’re not different at all . . .
The “least of these” is all of us who know our need.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3