Tuesday, November 13, 2012
"I did so many drugs. I was afraid of everything. I thought every car coming down the street was going to run me over. There were always hidden things in the dark. I would sit curled up on the blankets, so afraid that there was someone under my bed."
A life not yet 20. A blur of no hope. An abyss of fear.
I touch her and she stiffens, sighs, tries to form a weak smile. Her eyes apologize for lack of trust, cautious hesitation. My heart breaks for this woman-child who is so terrified of life, of people, yet so eager to learn how to live courage.
"I'm proud of you for coming," I whisper to her in the prison chapel. "Coming was difficult for you. It's easier to give up, to hide under the covers."
She nods. Like the other prisoners, she knows about hard things, about giving up. "God took away a lot of the fear," she tells me. "I know He's there."
"The fear of the Lord leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil." It is truth from Proverbs 19:23 that she is learning. It is truth she has needed to know for a long time.
A long line of others wait to talk to me. I want to hold my breath, to hold on to this moment. To say something just for her, something to provide courage for the week, for the lifetime.
Another woman-child takes my hand. I know Janie. Have loved her in these prison walls. Monday after Monday, I walk alongside on hard days. Her husband has married another and taken her children far away. Janie is broken, facing serious surgery alone. Her mother is dying of the same cancer that is killing her young son. Tears trail down her face. She squeezes my hand, soaks up strength from my faith to keep walking strong.
Janie smiles at Andrea. Understands howling heart pain. Chokes back self tears to live courage, to be Jesus in a dark place. "Can I walk with you?" she asks the newcomer. "We're all so glad you came. My name is Janie. You're not alone."