The many heart-wrenching stories, tears, and cries to be set free from the lies of the enemy are vividly sketched in my mind. The horrendous stories of sexual abuse beginning as an innocent and impressionable three-year-old little girl makes me shudder. I hug my three and five-year-old daughters, and I can’t even begin to fathom how someone could be so vile to emotionally damage a precious little one like this. I cannot help but experience anger at the destruction and lies of the enemy in these young ladies’ lives. I hear many stories of rejection, abandonment, severe abusive beatings, being on drugs since the age of five, being forced into prostitution…the horrible stories go on and on.
We, recently, heard these sad and painful stories while we were spending seven long days in three of the Florida prisons. As many of the walls came down from around these individual’s hearts, they began sharing their painful childhood memories and asking for help in finding the healing they greatly long for.
Many of us struggle with forgiving someone who has hurt or offended us, but most of the offenses we face are minor compared to the accounts we heard. How do you help someone who is struggling to forgive someone who brutally murdered her brother and then sent his chopped up remains to his family? Is there any wonder that this young girl is struggling and emotionally shut down in certain areas of her life? As horrible as these things may sound, this is the evil world we are living in, and many people are caught in these terrible circumstances.
Duane and I spent most of our time with the female youthful offenders, (ages 18-24) and it was a blessing to see many of them choosing to forgive and finding a level of freedom and peace unlike they had ever experienced. Several of them accepted Jesus as Lord of their lives and were able to understand forgiveness for the very first time. Some of the girls made these comments: “I am not LOCKED UP any more! My heart is now totally FREE!… I never had a relationship with my earthly dad, but I have finally been able to meet my real Father! (Jesus)…When you all leave, I know I can’t get my strength from you, but I’ve learned to get my strength from God… I have heard all my life that I am stupid and worthless, but I have now learned that these were lies and I am now choosing to believe the TRUTH!”
Two of these young girls had no one who came to visit them and never received any mail from family or anyone else. They longed to have a family to love them, and they asked if we would consider being their spiritual parents. We meet so many within the prisons who desire to have a personal ongoing relationship with us, and
we can’t begin to make many commitments to anyone for this reason. However, we have consented to pray for them and they truly have a special place within our hearts. I was called, “Mom” while I was there, and my heart aches because I can’t imagine their intense longing just to be loved by someone.
While looking into the lonely and hurting faces within the prisons, there are many times when I can see a depth of peace and joy in someone’s face, in spite of their tears. As our family sang and shared our story one evening at the women’s prison, there were many tears that were shed during this time. However, I remember, in particular, one young lady in the front row who was sobbing with her hands over her face while our little girls were singing. It nearly broke my heart, and I had to avoid looking into many of their hurting faces or I wouldn’t have been able to sing. I realized that many of them were probably missing their own children at home. After the service, I was able to share a bit with this beautiful young woman and saw just a glimpse of her incredible pain and loss. She has been in prison since she was fifteen years old and is now thirty-two. This means that she has been in prison longer than she has been out. This sweet woman has a life sentence, and she was again struggling with the painful realization of what she will never experience. She had not seen a young child for many years, and the closest she was able to get was to shake our little girls’ hands. Obviously, she committed a horrible crime and needs to pay the consequences for it, but my heart still broke for her loss.
As I was able to talk with her a bit more the following day, I could see that she had something that many people on the “outside” don’t have. She had true JOY! There was an incredible amount of peace and joy radiating from the countenance of her face. She had NOTHING to speak of in this life, BUT she had ALL she needed…she had JESUS! I could tell that she had learned to rest in the arms of Jesus, even while she still faced the bitter pain and loss within her life. Her joy wasn’t dependent on her circumstance, but it was a byproduct of living in the presence of Jesus.
How many of us know true joy like this? Can others see this kind of joy in the midst of life’s disappointments and struggles? Why do we continue to have an ungrateful heart about things after we have been given so much? It doesn’t matter if we live in a
palace or a prison…we can still choose JESUS and His indescribable JOY!
Habakkuk 3:17-19 describes joy so well, “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will REJOICE in the Lord, I will JOY in the God of my salvation.”
What brings true joy to your life? Is your relationship with Jesus more important than anything else? Would you radiate peace and joy if Jesus Christ was ALL you had? The way you respond to your “little” irritations or losses, is a good indicator of this!
~Cindy (For The Mullett Family)