When Love Sees You

May 22, 2013·

ncciw-shirt-volunteerNope, no outfit post today. I know you’re probably really disappointed. (Does sarcasm come through in that sentence? Hehe.)

To be honest, part of it is because my tripod broke (boo), but the other part (and much larger part) if it is there’s just something that’s on my heart that I just feel led to share.

Yes, be prepared for Molly word vomit.

As I’m writing this, I’m riding in the church van after leaving our service at the women’s prison where I volunteer. This was our last service before our “summer break” and the last service for me before the baby comes. I’ve mentioned this ministry before and I’m no stranger to a night like tonight where I just, in so many words, feel humbled.

However, in the two years that I’ve served on this prison ministry team, tonight was just one of those nights that I’ll never forget.

As many times as I’ve been behind the walls of NCCIW (the North Carolina Correctional Institute for Women) and as many times as I’ve spoken to and shaken the hands of those women, tonight just felt different.

These women, some of whom are locked up for a long, long time, were the most free I’ve ever seen them. I saw women who are daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers who have dreams, goals, and hope for the future – they just happen to be where they are.

Sure, some of them have done some pretty awful things in their past. Some of them have done things to land them behind those bars that are just unthinkable, but the fact is, they’re still women. They’re daughters of the King who need a second chance. They need to know they’re loved. Many of these women feel completely alone – so often they are in there and their families, friends, and loved ones have given up on them.

But the amazing thing is, that we don’t have to see them for their circumstances. We get to see them and love them like Jesus does. We get to show them just a glimpse of the Love that God has for each of them. He sees beyond what they’ve done… and the reality is, as flawed humans, it’s tough for us to see past that surface stuff most of the time.

So you see, everything was going well – things were great, and then a small group of pregnant inmates walked in the gym and headed towards the front of the room and suddenly, I saw those particular women like I see myself right now. They’re young, beautiful women carrying a child. Their child. Behind bars.

It’s not like I haven’t seen a pregnant inmate before, because I have, plenty of times. But it felt different tonight. I thought about how hot and uncomfortable I know I was standing in that non-air conditioned room and how much my back hurt and feet hurt and insert pregnancy complaint here and yada yada yada.

But then I looked at them and realized they feel exactly the same way I do, yet they’re behind bars. They don’t have a husband that’s there to care for them and rub their feet. They don’t have the comfort of a recliner and Netflix when they’re feeling exhausted. And they don’t have air conditioning… for the love of God they don’t have air conditioning – not even in their dorms.

But, what broke my heart the most was thinking about them… and their babies.

You see, I can’t wait to meet our baby. I’m so excited to hold him/her in my arms forever. But you see, for these pregnant inmates… it’s a different story. What happens to them when they go into labor?

Well, they’ll get taken to Wake Med hospital, they’ll deliver the baby, they’ll get three days (tops) and then the baby is immediately taken from them. If they are lucky enough to have a family member(s) who will take the baby, then the family will come and take the baby. Otherwise, the baby is immediately placed in foster care and the mother is more than likely to never see or hold that baby ever again.

Then, once the mother is released from the hospital, she’s brought back to prison and put back on the yard.

I can’t even imagine what that must feel like… to go through the physical, emotional, and spiritual stress of carrying and delivering a child, but then to be immediately separated and have to go back to “life as normal” – post-partum depression, side effects, symptoms, etc. – I just don’t have words. I have no clue what that must feel like.

I also learned that inmates who have just given birth more often than not come back in the prison severely depressed and many even try to commit suicide.

Breaks my heart.

Our pastor was able to be there live tonight and delivered a message to the women that clearly resonated with everyone in the room. But what stuck with me was his reference to life being like a game of chess and when we often feel cornered and alone – like we’re in checkmate – God shows us that He, the King, has one more move. It’s not over yet. It’s not over till it’s over.

The King has one more move for each and every one of us.

And so, as the service ended and those pregnant women walked out tonight, I made sure to look them in the eye, I shook each of their hands a little firmer and said, “Please know that I am praying for you and your baby. Know that I love you, but God loves you and your baby more than you will ever begin to imagine. The King has one more move for you…

And then I quietly placed my hands on my own belly, prayed for our child, and I praised Him for the blessings He’s given us. I praised Him for His grace and his mercy. I praised Him for the second chances. I praised Him for seeing beyond our flaws, MY flaws, beyond our transgressions, MY transgressions, and beyond our “stuff” – and MY stuff. 

I know that God’s got a plan when nights like tonight happen. They happen when we need them most – when I need them most. I need those gentle reminders from the still small voice that my life is okay – in fact, it’s great. I need those reminders of my blessings. We all do.

And on a week like this week after such unspeakable tragedy in Oklahoma, it’s yet another reminder of the importance of the big things like grace, mercy, love, kindness, compassion, and hope.

So tonight, today, whenever you’re reading this – I just ask you to take a moment and feel comfort and peace in what you have. Even if you have what seems like it all or if you have what seems like nothing – just know how blessed you really are.

Know how much you are loved.

Know how much people care about you.

And even if you don’t want to believe it, choose not to believe it, have never believed it, or simply can’t believe it, you must know how much God loves you and how He sees you.

I thought, in closing, I’d share this song with you. I heard it for the first time tonight in the car on the way home from prison and I just felt like every single lyric was dripping with what I feel right now.

“When Love Sees You” – Mac Powell

Blessed are you, as you weep on your knees
With perfume and tears washing over My feet
Blessed are you, beggar, hopeless and blind
Calling for mercy when I’m passing by
Blessed are you, shaking your head
At two tiny fish and some bread
Blessed are you as you tremble and wait
For the first stone thrown at your sinful disgrace

Tell me your story, show me your wounds
And I’ll show you what Love sees when Love looks at you
Hand me the pieces, broken and bruised
And I’ll show you what Love sees when Love sees you

Blessed are you, walking on waves
To find yourself sinking when you look away
Blessed are you, leper, standing alone,
The fear on their faces, is all that you’ve known
Blessed are you, lonely widow
Who gave your last shiny coin to Yahweh
Blessed are you with your silver and lies,
Kissing the One who’s saving your life

Tell me your story, show me your wounds
And I’ll show you what Love sees when Love looks at you
Hand me the pieces, broken and bruised
And I’ll show you what Love sees when Love sees you

I see what I made in your mother’s womb
I see the day I fell in love with you.
I see your tomorrows, nothing left to chance
I see My Father’s fingerprints
I see your story, I see My name
Written on every beautiful page
You see the struggle, you see the shame
I see the reason I came

I came for your story, I came for your wounds
To show you what Love sees when I see you

When I see you
When I see you

If you’re still with me here at the end of this post. Thank you.

Now that I’ve had the chance to word vomit all up in here, I must know, what’s on YOUR mind lately?

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