Today, I have the pleasure of (once again) introducing you to my lifetime friend and cheerleader, Courtney Garza. After you read her words, you’ll want to steal her from me. A word of caution: I am scrappier than I might appear at first glance. Do not attempt to mess with the bestie. Now, Courtney currently hails from Birmingham, working at the University of Alabama. She can kick your tail at Scrabble and put anything together regardless of whether or not she has the instructions. She’s a faithful friend, gifted writer and lover of Jesus. Enjoy!
We hold services at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, along with half of the correctional facilities across the state of Alabama, every week. There is a desperation, a hunger that these women have that challenges me. I don’t know many of their names yet, but they are a part of our church family.
A few weeks ago during worship, two guards walked in. Without being directed, the women all sat down. It was time to be counted. I followed their lead and sat down as well. They didn’t interrupt the one prisoner in the front of the room with her face buried in her hands. She never even noticed they were there. As soon as the guards were finished counting, everyone stood back up so we could continue in worship. And tears streamed down my face as I thought, “They can’t even worship without being reminded that they’re a number.” Mid-thought, I heard the voices in the room rejoin to sing the chorus:
I owe it all to you my Savior
I owe it all to you alone
Your sacrifice has won my freedom
I was bought by Jesus’ blood
Freedom. With all sincerity, they, in their white jumpsuits and behind bars, declared that they are FREE because of what Jesus did on the cross. Maybe some are just following the words on the screen without absorbing it, maybe it hasn’t quite hit their heart, and maybe it doesn’t seem to fit their situation. But their declaration is still powerful. Yes, their worship was interrupted because they needed to be counted, BUT they could still proclaim truth and find hope in the promise of eternity, even if their circumstance won’t change tomorrow (a wise pastor once taught me the importance of staying on the right side of the BUT).
Several years ago, I was sitting with a room full of women during a Captivating book study session. We were provided a time of reflection to answer questions. During this time, I remember clearly the Lord speaking to me about the cage that I had constructed to keep my heart in. The cage was meant to protect it, keep it from harm. But it had, in turn, become a prison. God reminded me that my heart was never meant to be caged. The door of the cage was open. Freedom was available. It had always been available. All I had to do was acknowledge it and accept it.
Friends, even if the bars are not literal, is there an area where you are captive? Did you place yourself there for protection? Was it a result of your own choices? Did someone else make that decision for you? Whatever it is, freedom is yours. Jesus won it when he defeated death, Hell, and the grave! Will you accept his freedom today?