Sunday, October 22, 2006

S.C.I. days and nights

My husband and I just returned from visiting our son who is in prison clear across this great state of Pennsylvania. It's a long state, and our four hour travel is plenty enough for me-just long enough to be tiresome and annoying. And that is how it began, with not much sleep the night before, and four hours of travel mostly in the rain, and partially in the dark and the fog. I was irritated and lacked any real peace going out. The first thing that happened upon waking in the morning at 4:30 was that I could not locate my overnight bag anywhere. My faithful Thursday ladies' group prayed for us the night before and I asked them to pray that it would be a joyful visit, as we have been studying the fruit of the Spirit. I suppose that may have been the wrong request, like praying for patience, because it seems surely such a prayer invites every little irritation to force a choice in the matter-am I going to be angry every time, or choose joy...that morning I only felt total frustration.

Well, four hours of non-stop rain, lots of mountains and bad jokes, cramped legs and slow moments of just wanting to GET THERE ended with a smiling guard and a good visit. Friday unfolded like a satin sheet, and my joy-mometer began to rise, though the sun never seemed to. We left for our hotel room in good spirits, having been allowed to stay until visiting hours were over. Conversation flowed easily and we all laughed alot. We had a nice dinner and a good evening.

But once again, the mattress in the room was really, really hard, and neither one of us slept well. The continental breakfast was raisin bran and stale Cheerios (man, I don't know what continent those are from!) and I couldn't get the cereal dispenser to dispense!! That stubborn irritation was beginning to rise again. We got to the prison, right on time we thought, and faced a huge line of people, but not before our car was searched. We then waited in line for half an hour and faced a very sour guard at the desk. First he typed in the wrong prisoner number, so we almost missed our place in line through the metal detector. Then, despite my absolute insistence that it was my underwire bra that kept tripping the silly gadget, he put me through the entire list (rings, watches, belts, no, no, and no....) to the wand, raise your shirt-by then I could feel my internal fists begin to clench and I wanted to punch a hole right in his doughboy stomach. Jerk. Then it was external drug testing-palms, shoulders and pockets swept by a machine that vacuums for drug dust. Ok, we've done that, but after so many times a body has no patience.

Then we sat, and sat and sat waiting...people that came in after us were going down and we weren't moving. Once again I could feel my internal fists rising, needing to punch a hole in a wall or something. I watched the people coming through the detector and walking up from the parking lot after the car search. You really couldn't tell they were coming to a prison. They could have been going to the movies or a concert-there were young ones, older folks, Mennonites, handicapped folks in chairs. Even the vending machine guy was thoroughly searched by the ignatz at the desk. It was then that it hit me...that the law is impartial because it lacks compassion, and God is impartial because He is all compassion. The desk dude didn't care if you were in a chair-he made a woman with knee replacements stand up out of her electric wheelchair to be totally searched. I hate that guy (sorry Lord, I'm not you). But anyway, he didn't care. His job was not to care, it was to find contraband or anything that would get you chucked right back out the door. God's job has always been to get us in the door. I was fearing we wouldn't by the time our names were finally called. (And oh, I forgot the dog drug search which also happened as well before we went through the final door).

The law shames us. The law is blinded by it's own focus on our sin and it's inability to do anything but point it out. Like the sun finally shining that second morning, I saw a clear example of the reason the Lord Jesus had to put Himself under the curse of the law and all of its requirements. He's the only one who would come up clean every time, and the law cannot stand goodness. Goodness robs the law of it's power. He took our sentence and imputed His goodness in us, so that is all that God the Father sees when He looks at us. There is no need for drug testing, sin testing-we do we think that is what He is about? His focus on our sin is only to heal, not punish. I found joy rushing back into my heart when I contemplated this very thing, and the trip back not so bad after all. Now if I could just apply this principle to my husband's snoring!


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