I'm reading about heartbreak and what breaks our hearts (and God's heart) in Kelly Minter's new study called Nehemiah. I'm only on day one, but I'm already being heartbroken over the reality of my own heart condition. I'll be honest - I've felt God calling me to reach out to a specific group of people for about six months now and I keep pretending that it's not really Him, that I'm imagining it and that I'm too busy. In reality, I am too busy. I've got a lot going on. But if God is calling me to do something, I know that He will show me what I need to let go of in order to make room for the assignment. My job is obedience, His job is working out the details.
It all started one morning when I was reading about the Final Judgment in Matthew 25. I read in verses 34-40:
Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me." Then these righteous ones will reply, "Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?" And the King will say, "I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!"I was going through the list of people this person had reached out to - a hungry person, a thirsty person, a stranger in his home, someone in need of clothing, a sick person who needed care and I knew that I had done all of those things and was doing a mental check list in my mind of times that the Lord had used me to reach out to these types of people. Broken people who had been dealt a difficult blow in life. People who did not make the choice that led them to their difficulties and heartbreak. I was feeling a bit of a thrill in my heart to know that I had done all of those things. Self-righteousness was slowly creeping into my heart. But then....it happened. I read the words that broke my heart in a way it had never been broken before:
"I was in prison and you came to visit me."
I've read those words in this passage dozens of times. But for some reason, that morning about six months ago, it was as if I was reading them for the first time. Thoughts swirled in my mind. Prison? Don't people in prison make the choices that lead them there? Maybe if they hadn't made those choices, they wouldn't be there. Yuck. I didn't like that train of thought and it made me sick in the pit of my stomach. Even though all the other broken people did not make a conscious choice that led to their situation, they were no more broken than the people in the prisons!
I knew at that moment God may be calling me to reach out to the women in prisons. I love to share the truth of Jesus Christ - the hope and new life that He brings - with women all over the world as a speaker and writer. Why not share it with those in the prisons who are desperately in need of that hope and new life? Well, I'll tell you why. Fear. I was scared. What did I have in common with these women? What if I couldn't relate to them? What if...what if....the what if's kept coming. Then it hit me.
We've all done things that could probably end us up in that same place, but by the grace of God, we have not been caught. How many times as a young woman had I stolen something? How many times in my past life of alcoholism had I gotten behind the wheel, sure that I was fine to drive, and only by God's grace did I make it to my destination? How many times did I do things out of complete foolishness in my youth that could have landed me in that very same place?
I am no different than them. I have much in common with these women. I am just as broken as they are and Jesus loves and died for them, just like He did for me. Prison may be the very place that God may allow them to hit bottom so that the only place they have to look is up - to Him. But how will they know Him if they do not hear of Him? If prison was what it would have taken to show me His truth, I hope that is exactly what He would have used to reach out to me! In a way, I suppose He did - I was imprisoned by my choices, my foolishness and my sinfulness. There were no physical bars around me, but I guarantee the prison was a reality. But now I am free - only by His grace and mercy.
I'm blogging out of a heart that is broken today. I'm broken not only because of these women who are sitting in the prisons, behind bars, feeling hopeless and trapped but also because of my disobedience to follow God's nudging. I've allowed fear and insecurities to keep me from doing something I believe He wants me to do. But today, I began the journey of seeing where God may lead me in this. My first step was talking to my husband. I told him that I wanted him to pray for me and help me to discern what the next step would be. I trust God will equip him to help me on this journey and I look forward to what God has in store.
What breaks your heart? Is God asking you to take the first step today? What are you waiting for? Blessing always follows obedience.