Post image for Incarcerated – Part 5

Incarcerated – Part 5

by DanWolgemuth on May 31, 2019

When our kids were little our end of day routine circled around a prayer time, followed by what we called “Happy Thoughts,” then a kiss good night. The “Happy Thoughts” happened as a result of our kids having difficulty falling asleep or being bothered with persistent worry about something. To combat this, we planted a thought in their mind that brought comfort, or joy, or anticipation. A “Happy Thought.”

On Friday night, May 3rd, the overpowering sound of a cell door slamming and the involuntary extinguishing of the lights reminded me that I had no control of my circumstances. I was fully and completely locked up… at least for 26 hours.

Just down a hallway from me were four young men that I’d just gotten to know. Like me, they heard the same sounds, smelled the same smells, and felt the same overwhelming sense of helplessness.

Our sensory experiences were similar, but after having gotten to know these young men, I knew that what happened next was very different. Painfully different.

With no pillows available to the residents, I placed my head on a Bible that I had been able to bring into the facility. Once in a somewhat comfortable position, my mind quickly exited the incarceration. I thought about Mary. By Sunday afternoon I would be home. A walk would be in order. A time to debrief and process and be together. I thought about the words I would use to describe the indescribable experience. My mind raced to my kids, my grand kids… I could feel their embrace, their love, their support. These thoughts and the subsequent feelings were impossible to confine, to incarcerate.

But what about the four young men? The four boys just down the hallway… likely a half-dozen locked doors away? Were they falling asleep to such thoughts? Such anticipation? Such hope?

I had planted my own “Happy Thoughts” in the helplessness of my situation. But what about KB, or B, or WS, or J… what mental images slept next to them on their concrete slab?

Their situation screamed condemnation and shame. Their convictions accelerated their thoughts. In most cases their families amplified a message of worthlessness.

The behavior modification reward system in the detention center served to reinforce the inherent belief that these young men were only as valuable or expendable as the behaviors they exhibited. Their worth revolved around their performance… and their current environment underscored with resounding clarity that they were valueless. Juvenile convicts.

Yet, in 26 hours I came to believe that it’s possible to plant seeds of hope in the soil of despair. It’s possible to strike a match in the suffocating darkness. It’s possible to bring the message of Jesus to lost and broken young people. It’s the Good News. The Gospel. It’s Jesus.

I saw the start of a glimmer in their eyes. I witnessed the lift in their voice. It’s possible because God made it possible in Jesus.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone. (Isaiah 9:2, ESV)

Darkness. The consistent resident in JDC. But God, rich in mercy and un-incarcerated love, sent Jesus. Light. The ultimate, only, clear, hope-filled message to every burdened and broken soul.

His love defies steel bars. His compassion unlocks sealed doors.

When everything else uses the dialect of condemnation, Jesus speaks grace. Justice… yes. But unfettered mercy. Uncontainable joy.

On Saturday the 4th of May, words of hope were planted. In the minds of young men whose ears are tuned to rejection, anger, bitterness, shame and hopelessness. Light dawned.

Indeed, I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38,39 ESV)

Nothing can separate us, nothing can separate these four young men from the love of God in Christ. Nothing.

In the minds wide open in the middle of the night… the dream is born. In Jesus. Through Jesus.

To be continued…

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