FIRST TIME I WENT TO PRISON to visit someone, I felt ashamed.
Guilty by association, perhaps.
My friend had done something shameful, and was paying the price.
When I walked into the prison, the entrance opened into what looked like an atrium to a spartan high school. The room of gray blocks barely stretched 40 by 40 feet (12 square meters).
There was no decor but drab.
No sense of welcome, either. The guard stood with his back to us, apparently not wanting bothered until it was time to herd us into the visitation room.
There were about a dozen other souls sitting or standing alongside the walls, waiting for the visit to start.
- A very old couple.
- A 40-ish couple, perhaps waiting to see their son.
- Two young mothers with babies who kept saying, “Daddy.”
I wonder if they felt ashamed, too. Or embarrassed. Or a failure in some way.
I felt all of those.
“Visit for Miller,” the guard called.
It was time for me to empty my pockets and get in line for the metal detector and the ultraviolet stamp on my hand.
My friend didn’t want me to visit. He didn’t want me to have to come to a place like this. And he was ashamed of what he had done.
I insisted on going. If our roles had been reversed, I wouldn’t want abandoned.
My friend has since been released. Work is hard to find once you’re a felon.
Shame on you
For some, the shame never goes away.
I think Jesus understands it.
He knows what shame feels like.
Crucifixion was the most shameful way to die, reserved for the worst offenders.
Jesus died in shame.
But he rose in glory, damning shame to hell.
The people we hurt might never forgive us.
We might never forgive ourselves.
But there is one who understands our shame.
He took it to the cross.
When I see the cross in church, I sometimes think of my friend.
Especially during Easter season, when we focus so much on the cross.
And especially when we sing one particular song.
O the wonderful cross,
O the wonderful cross
All who gather here
By grace draw near
And bless Your name.
—by Chris Tomlin
Update about Email from a reader in pain
Last Tuesday, April 4, I shared a wrenching email I got from Chris, a 33-year-old man with cystic fibrosis. For the record, people with cystic fibrosis don’t usually live past age 37.
People were moved by his words. I’m glad to know I wasn’t alone on that.
Some folks contacted me and asked me to send him some more of my books. That included my own mother and a kindhearted gent in my Sunday morning Bible study group.
I did. Chris will have enough to read for a while.
When I told him about it, he wrote back.
“Wow, I am surprised to hear that so many people were moved by the email that I sent. As I read your email it brought tears of joy to my eyes to know that so many people are thinking about and praying for me.
Please tell your mother and the man in your church that I really appreciate them caring so much about me and for buying me more of your books. When I wrote you I honestly did not expect any of this. I just wanted you as well as others to keep me in their prayers.”
Will do, Chris.
What a gift you have in writing. I pictured the whole thing as if it happened to me. I will always keep this with me because I feel that one day I can give this to somebody who needs it . This writing was very valuable . Someone who has done things wrong and have experience this will have hope again after reading this. He will get closer to our Lord. Thank you. Sincerely Heidi Meinke
Stephen M. Miller
Very kind, Heidi. Thank you.
I look forward to your blogs every day. They confirm and remind of who I am but even more so of why I am a believer.