Incarcerated – Still Sitting on my Soul

by DanWolgemuth on November 8, 2019

From time to time over the last six months, a stagnant memory or reflection stirs in my soul as I think about 26 hours in lock up.

Most urgently I’m drawn back to the simple and straightforward process of “intake”. It’s the activity of separating the resident from the last remnant of personal belongings. Individual expression is eliminated, and uniformity is established. Clothing, socks, shoes, a few toiletries, and bedding.

Bedding… Sheets. A blanket. The end.

For an unexplainable reason, what tends to roost on my soul is the fact that residents aren’t given a pillow. A concrete slab, with a foam pad… a sheet, a blanket, but no pillow.

I’m sure there are reasons, and most likely, good reasons… but for the vast majority of these young men and women, the precaution is unnecessary. Yet, the policy and process exist. No pillow.

What was unexpected to me was that not having a pillow was more than an inconvenience. It was an assault on my dignity. An insult of sorts. Not having a pillow made sustained rest impossible. It was an interruption that fanned the flames of shame.

During the single night that I experienced this, I envisioned the twelve and thirteen-year-olds on the other side of a concrete wall who were doing their best to create a place for their heads to rest. Precious heads. Young heads. Misguided heads. Defiant heads. Confused heads. Hopeless heads… without the dignity of a pillow.

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20, ESV)

No place. Nowhere.

The beautiful head of the only begotten had no place. No rest.

The Creator. The King. No pillow.

Is it any wonder that Jesus invites us into the sacred space of bringing hope to those who have lost all dignity, identity, purpose and hope? He knows what it’s like to be shamed. He knows.

He knows each young person who wrestles to find rest. Each young person who grasps for peace.

To every young person… a simple message. Jesus knows. He knows the isolation. The loneliness. The disgrace. The restless nights.

To every young person… a simple message. Jesus redeems. Jesus ransoms. Jesus loves.

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20, ESV)

He clutches those pillow-less heads in His nail scared hands and kisses them.

Dignity in a new identity.

“I was in prison and you came to me…”

For every restless soul. For every confused inmate. Through the pillow-less shame.


Jesus. He knows. And in some fractional way… so do I.

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