May 12, 2014

Journeys With Jesus

A women’s cry echoed down the cement-block hallway. Startled, I glanced around the circle of women. Some smiled. Others merely shrugged their shoulders. I shook my head and tried to focus on our Bible study again. If my blue-clad sisters could block out other sounds, so could I.

My resolve lasted a couple minutes. Sarah, my friend from church, was leading the study tonight for the jail inmates. When she asked, “How many of you have heard of Daniel and the lions’ den?” not a single hand was raised.

Just as she launched into the story, we heard that cry again, but I couldn’t understand what the woman was saying. Was she calling for help?

My mind refused to think about Daniel. Who was that woman? Finally I asked, “Do you know who that woman is? What’s wrong?”

The women exchanged knowing glances. “Yeah, that’s Amber.* She’s been in and out of jail before. She’s in solitary confinement down the hall. She’s crazy.”

Amber. Amber—now I remembered her. She’d come to our Bible study a few months ago. Why was she back again?

Sarah continued our study while I wondered if Amber would allow us to pray for her. We hugged our sisters goodbye and promised to pray for them. I watched as the guard escorted them back to their cells, the women wearing orange Crocs as they walked down the hall and around the corner.

Gathering up our things, we approached the guard. “Excuse me,” I said. “Do you think you could allow me to speak with Amber a moment? I’d like to pray with her.”

“Well, she’s been here probably 15 times. As soon as she gets out, she gets picked up again.” He looked tired. “She’s ruined her mind with bath salts. Sure, you can try to talk with her.”

I tentatively stepped down the hall toward solitary. He followed, hand on the gun on his belt. Amber started calling before I even reached her cell window. “Hey, lady, who are you? Come over here.”

I stepped to her door. “Hi, Amber. My name is Jill,” I began. “I came to see you for a few minutes, if that’s OK with you.” We conversed briefly. Then I asked, “Do you mind if I pray with you?”

She began to get agitated. “No, no, I don’t want prayer. I pray all the time. I don’t need your prayers.” She stepped right up to the glass and stared at me. “Oh—look at your teeth! Lady, you’ve got pretty teeth. Hey, I’d like some teeth like that!”

“I’m sorry, Amber; I can’t give you my teeth. But I’d love to pray—”

“Oh, no, I don’t need prayer. Oh, but your teeth. Look at them! That’s what I want—teeth like that!”

“Oh, Amber, you can talk to the God of the—”

“Look at those teeth!”

Tears filled my eyes. I turned slowly away. What more could I say? We could’ve talked with the Creator God, the omnipotent Savior, the one who can do anything! And all she wanted was my teeth.

As I traveled home I thought of the tremendous gift she had cast aside. It wasn’t purposeful. She simply had no idea of the power of our King. Then God reminded me in the recesses of my heart that I have, many times, settled for second best. I have been like Amber. I have prayed for “teeth.”

Haven’t I desired advice from people but neglected asking my Father for wisdom? Haven’t I trembled with fear instead of seeking His face? When have I received not, because I asked not?

What about you? Have you been praying for “teeth”?

* not her real name