October 24, 2013

Journeys With Jesus

I ascended the concrete steps of the old brick building and waited for the gruff female guard to wave me through the metal detector.

“Come on,” she barked.

I smiled my thanks, but she remained impassive. I waited, uncertain where to go.She had already turned back to her book.

Summoning my courage, I approached her. “Excuse me, ma’am. Where is family court?”

Her eyes flickered over my face, and then returned to her book. “Third floor.”

The elevator creaked on its journey up. As I stepped out and began walking down the corridor, my heels clicked on the old linoleum. Almost every chair in the long hallway was filled. A baby cried as her mother held her. Another woman rocked in unspoken anguish. Most were dressed in faded jeans. Old sweatshirts covered too-thin bodies. The stale air felt tense. Armed police officers stood guard. Important-looking men in business suits hurried past.

I glanced about. Then the elevator door opened, and my friend Sam* stepped out.

“Oh, Jill, thanks so much for coming!” Her voice choked as she gave me a hug. “Let me introduce you to my family.”

I shook hands with her family members and made small talk. Underneath our light exterior was the unspoken question: Would Sam get her children back today? 

I’d known Sam for only a few short months. The first time I’d met her she was wearing a navy-blue jumpsuit and orange crocs, courtesy of our local jail. Several of the women from our church visit the jail every Monday night to share the Word of God with our sisters there. Sam had regularly come to our meetings, reaching out for a new way of life. After her release she began attending our church. She’d been working toward recovery. Reaching out to Jesus. Fighting to get her children back. I’d promised to attend court with her today. I couldn’t do anything except sit beside her and pray.

The sound of chains coming down the hallway startled me. A young man in street clothes was led by two officers. Head down. Shackled hands. Eyes red from crying. He didn’t look more than 16. The officers led him into a side room to await his time with the judge. A commotion occurred opposite him. Two women exited the judge’s chambers. The younger one cried so hard that she swayed and would have fallen, except the other woman caught her. She’d been denied custody of her children. They passed by me on their way out. Years of drug use had etched their mark on their faces.

The chains dragged by me again, this time into the courtroom. Time seemed to stand still. The air grew stifling hot. I shifted my weight from foot to foot, prayed with my friend Sam, and paced the hall.

An hour passed. The young man came out, harried parents at his side. They had a brief consultation with his lawyer in the corner. I spoke with his girlfriend while they talked. She was so beautiful yet so heartbreakingly young. So much promise. So many choices made. So much suffering now.

The officers took the young man away to jail. His girlfriend reached out, tears streaming down her cheeks, but she wasn’t allowed to touch him. Turning, she stumbled after his parents.

Where is the “glory” of sin now? It was gone. It had simply vanished. Here, there was only the stark reality of Satan’s world. The end result of the beautiful allure of sin: death.

As I walked down the courthouse steps I thought of our precious Savior and how He had borne our death so that we could go free. Free from our guilt and shame. Free from the reality of Satan’s world. Free from our bondage to sin.

Dear Father, I breathed, teach us how to be Your witnesses, how to share the true freedom found in Jesus.n

* not her real name