Gayle changed out of her gray scrubs and eased her aching body onto the side of her bed. Her head felt like lead resting on the heels of propped-up hands. Another day had dragged to its conclusion. In six short hours she’ll crawl out and begin again. She rolled onto her back and stared into the darkness above her head.
“Lord, I can handle the daily grind, endless orders from those around me, even my lack of identity in a sea of so many clones of myself. But to have my children out of my reach, and with so many needs, falls dangerously close to being asked to endure more than I can bear. If I could only hug them close and tell them how much I care …” Her prayer faded into another night of restless sleep that would never reach the state of peace her soul craved.
The morning sun zeroed in through the corner window and nudged her awake. Moments later she joined the others in the cafeteria line sliding her empty tray in rhythm with theirs. There was little time for conversation. She would have only a few minutes to eat, gather books and notebooks from her locker and head to class. She gave a quick “thank you” nod to the Lord for her oatmeal and fruit and robotically finished every bite. The coffee was barely warm, but she downed the much-needed caffeine before returning her tray to yet another line.
When her mail for the day arrived before lunch, the return address signaled another crisis in her daughter’s life. Cassie never had time to share good news. Reed was probably in trouble with his probation officer again. Gayle decided to save the bad news for later; she needed to focus on passing exams this afternoon.
Dinner was over and Gayle quickly took her place to help clear tables and rinse dishes. Her rotation in the cafeteria would only be for two more days, and she was looking forward to reclaiming her evening walks. The night spring air always drew her into a personal and private conversation with the Lord, and did she ever need that time with Him.
With two more college credits completed and a free evening, Gayle slipped out the side door of the cafeteria and began her long-awaited stroll with Jesus. How her life had changed since she heard of His saving grace and forgiveness. The hard part was learning to forgive herself:
“Can I say, ‘Thank you, Jesus’ just one more time today, Lord? You sustained me through the tests this week and actually sent good news through Cassie’s letter: Only two more weeks and Reed will have completed his probation period. She said he’s really trying to change his circle of friends and even found a part-time summer job. My heart’s cry is for generations of troubled lives to be healed. I don’t want to see another child, grandchild, or another sibling continue this shameful heritage of crime and punishment. Lives ruined with substance abuse and not understanding that Your powerful love can cleanse and heal us, even of the sin carried by poisonous venom through punctured veins.
“As far back as I can remember, someone in my ancestry has been arrested, even imprisoned, for breaking the law. An uncle serving time for murder, his son for dealing, my dad for drunk driving, my brother for armed robbery, to name only a few. Now to see my daughter struggling as a single parent of a rebellious son as she fights for her own sobriety is breaking my heart. I long to be reunited with her and with Reed, then I can actually show them how different their lives can be. My friends have seen the change in my life, and their daily prayers and encouragement are pure gold. I want to be the same instrument of Your love to others.
"Give me the words to share what you’ve done for me in the past few months. Please draw my loved ones to Yourself so they, too, can have freedom and joy in their lives - Your freedom that cannot be bound by steel gates and razor wire. In Jesus’ name…”
Gayle finished her walk and actually relaxed into her bed with a sigh of one whose burden had just become lighter. In only sixty-three days, Gayle’s new journey with her family would begin – on the outside of these prison walls.
“The Lord sets the prisoners free.” Psalm 146:7 (NASB)
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