Let all that you do be done in love. I Corinthians 16:14 NASB
Right now I’m serving a five-year prison sentence but I’ve never committed a crime. Once I’m released from prison I’ll be on parole for five more years according to my probation officer, a man I’ve never met.
I know what a 6’ x 8’ living space is like though I’ve never been behind bars. I know how time slows to a crawl in the company of cold concrete walls – walls I’ve never touched. I’m aware of the cries of bewildered inmates that fill the airspace – airspace I’ve never inhabited. I’ve heard the outbursts of criminals steeped in anger though I’ve never lived in close range. I know all of this, because someone very dear to me is incarcerated right now.
I’ll never forget the day my heart stopped. It was a text message.
“Mom, please pray for Eric. He’s been locked up.”
Eric was my son’s coworker, and the two were very close. Understandably so. When my husband and I met Eric for the first time, we fell in love with him instantly. Eric is dynamic in so many ways. His personality is bigger than life. His presence is unavoidable. His way is so kind. His heart is overflowing with love. Few and far between are the people who carry electricity in their veins lighting up everyone around them.
The profile was perfect. He was looking for a vacancy, and we had a space to fill. So we formed a family, and the recent chapters of our lives have been enhanced in ways we never dreamed possible.
I knew Eric had a troubled past but I also knew he was tired ~ tired of rejection and mistreatment, tired of the heavy load he’d carried for years, tired of the taste of sin. Eric wanted to experience authenticity. He wanted to start over. He wanted his life back. And he knew that the way to have those things was to have Jesus.
We knew that God had fingered our family to come up alongside Eric when he landed in prison. The Lord wanted us to show Eric how to fulfill the cravings in his heart. Given Eric’s past and his present situation, we knew we were dealing with a messy ordeal, one that most people would avoid. But we couldn’t. We were driven by something beyond ourselves. We were rooted in God’s love and bolted to Eric’s side.
What Eric feels we feel. What Eric experiences we experience. What Eric faces we face. God’s love for Eric flows freely through us. It drives us. This is what loving “our neighbor as ourselves” looks like.
We’ve traveled a long and winding road in the last year and a half. We faced depression, anxiety, fear, and much uncertainty. But along the way we felt the quiet presence of a God who was leading us. We passed through the complicated pathways of the judicial system and were shocked by the connections and favor we received. Most important of all, God used us to love Eric through the most fragile emotional state of his life. He strengthened Eric and gave him a new heart, new desires, and a new perspective. Eric will never be the same.
Today Eric is thriving in his relationship with the Lord. He may live behind bars. His feet might inhabit tight quarters. But he spends his days in the company of a Mighty King who has completely liberated him ~ a Mighty King whose name is Love.
Love so overwhelming life’s circumstances pale in comparison.
Love so fluid the tiniest cracks and crevices are filled.
Love so healing brokenness is restored.
Love so powerful shattered lives are framed in beauty.
Love sets everything He touches free. Eric can attest to that! If I could summarize Eric’s perspective in one statement I believe it would be this ~
“When I was on the streets I could do whatever I wanted, but I wasn’t free. Here in prison I have Jesus. Now I’m free. This is what I was looking for all along.”
Love came calling. He steered our hearts toward a lost man. And a lost man was set free.
Eric has a coined phrase that he uses whenever he hears something amazing ~ “Woooooow! That’s beautiful. That’s love.” When I look at what God has done with Eric’s life all I can say is ~ Woooooow! That’s beautiful! That really is Love!
Question to Ponder
How well do you respond when Love comes calling?