Many of you may know this, many do not; but about a year ago, I was falsely arrested and spent a night in jail before my bail was paid and I was released. Actually, it was exactly one year ago today, which is why I finally decided to post this. Seemed like a good way to commemorate what God’s done in my life over the past year.
Anyway, what followed after my arrest last year was a continuing saga of lawyers, court dates, tears, and stress before my case was finally dismissed and my arrest record expunged just a couple of months ago. I agonized over whether I should write about this at all; while an unexpected and certainly unpleasant experience, I wouldn’t want to cause any unnecessary concern. At this point I’m totally fine, and I’d honestly prefer to let bygones be bygones.
But I finally decided that my story needed to be shared. And here is why. The last year has not been just a continuing saga of court dates and stress. It has also been an even stronger story of growth and redemption. For nearly 6 months after that fateful night, I had felt God calling me to start working in some sort of prison ministry. It’s not something I would have ever thought of before, but after having been inside and met and talked with the people in there, I just really felt like God wanted me to love on these people that, quite frankly, nobody else loves. But regardless of how strongly I felt about it, it doesn’t mean I wanted to do it. What I wanted to do was stay as far away from any prison or police officer as possible.
But I digress. I finally relented and started the lengthy process required to get cleared to volunteer. The last step was my arrest expungement, which didn’t go through until November, but after that I was officially cleared to volunteer. My first time was a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been several times since. I have to admit….I was quaking when I walked into that facility. But by the time I walked out…I’m not sure how to verbalize what was going on when I walked out.
For all the prayers, all the journaling, all the talking through things that I’ve done over the past year, I wasn’t even close to prepared for what I would experience. Regardless of my negative initial experience, I was reminded over and over again that people, even people in prison, are still people. They’re humans with hopes and dreams and frustrations, just like you and me. They’ve been through some terrible things – some because of choices they’ve made, many through no fault of their own. But, at the core of it all, they still are just hurting, broken individuals like the rest of us, people who need to be loved on and shown God’s grace and compassion.
It was really an incredible, eye-opening time for me…probably the best therapy I could have ever gotten. For all of my talk about the importance of open-mindedness and sensitivity to others, working in this this ministry made me realize that I had a whole lot of latent prejudices that I didn’t even fully recognize. On multiple occasions, I found my heart absolutely breaking for people that I didn’t even know 3 weeks ago – people that, even now, I still only know on a first-name basis.
The old adage, “be careful what you wish for,” is equally true when it comes to prayer. For many years, I have prayed that God would give me His eyes, that He would break my heart by what breaks His. Well it seems that I myself needed to be broken before I could break for someone else. But over the course of the last 12 months, I’ve finally come to the point where I can honestly say that I’m grateful for my arrest, and I’m really looking forward to going back to the prison ministry. God truly does work in mysterious ways!