Remember our Father is always near to us
Published 11:00 am Sunday, March 26, 2023
It’s a scheduled meeting time that I prioritize — time spent with my prayer partner/inmate/sister in Christ/seminary student/missionary on her mission field. Visitors are a precious commodity in this place where rules, boundaries, bars, fear and limitations make it a place on the map that’s far from desirable or pleasant.
I’ll admit that my first visit was less than comfortable. My only experience with prisons was what I had seen in the movies or on TV. I’ve been told that there are areas there that mirror those dark TV scenes, but God has guided me with “soft” steps among women who are like me.
They have families, children and grandchildren, hometowns and streets that they think about every day. I believe there are multiple cases that probably lacked sufficient representations, leaving the defendant with ill-fated results. Then there are those who made terrible choices in fits of rage, revenge or in the company they kept. Regardless of the whys and hows, incarceration is a death blow to life and freedom.
One could quickly identify with the prisoners’ victims and align with justice and the separation of the law abiders from the law breakers. I’ve been one of those, but stepping into the prison system is an eye-opening experience that teaches a lot about grace and compassion.
The constant shift of emotions plays a large role in prison life. My prayer partner shares with me about the loneliness and despair that can settle around the incarcerated. It’s a world of its own including a language they all learn.
My new friend and I meet for Bible study and prayer weekly. It seems the scripture that we focus on each week speaks specifically to our needs. This week we shared about our past week’s challenges before we got into our study. My friend began sharing her heart as tears spoke more clearly than her words. Friends had misunderstood some of her conversations and had returned harsh words. Seminary studies had been extremely taxing, requiring long hours of study and reading. The constant reminders of rules and following orders seemed to magnify the circumstances surrounding her incarceration.
I listened with compassion and empathy as I sensed the heaviness in her spirit. “You’re in a pit, aren’t you?” I asked her. “An emotional and spiritual one.”
I’ve realized I don’t have the capacity or words to lift spirits in this place, but God does. I suggested we turn to God’s Word for comfort and healing. Our week’s study was waiting on God. We looked up verses that spoke to both of us. Then we turned to a reference that I had failed to write down. It was Psalm 40:1-3. We read, “I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock.”
My friend and I paused and smiled at each other. As Christians we both knew that God never leaves us or forsakes us and that He is omnipresent. However, in reading these verses, God had drawn very near, was seated by us around the table and lifted my friend out of the pit. He understood her need and had heard her cry and literally spoke to that need through His Word. Our Father is always near — regardless of where we may be.
Letters to Camille Anding may be sent to P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602.