As sunny, crisp, and beautiful as it was in Orlando yesterday, I sat in a lot of dark pain with some of my favorite people. It should be no surprise at this point that one of my favorite places in the world has become the 33rd Street Jail. What started as a weekly church service has turned into a significant part of my week and my life. Yesterday morning was particularly hard, because one of the women I have come to know was really suffering. Her children tried to visit her over the weekend and her son wouldn’t speak to her. He is 6, but he already knows what it feels like to be angry at his mother who is missing from this life because she is in jail, and has been for some time.
As we sat on the floor in the classroom adjacent to the women’s H dorm, my friend told me how much her heart hurt when her son wouldn’t speak to her. She cried tears over her children, her lost time in jail, her mistakes, her pain, her anger, and her grief. She asked me how she can be in a relationship with God if He never speaks to her. She asked me what to do when she feels hopeless.
When I got home, I made dinner, sat on our porch and watched “The Theory of Everything”. I am slowly making my way through last year’s movies and finally rented this one on Redbox. As I watched this phenomenal film, I was struck by Stephan Hawking’s line during his PhD dissertation: “Wouldn’t that be nice, professor? One simple, elegant equation to explain everything.” That is what I wish I had for my friend in jail. A nice, simple, elegant equation that would calm her fears, heal her pain, and solve the world’s problems. That is what I am sure Stephen Hawking wanted when he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease.
I didn’t have one simple equation for my friend. I hugged her for a long time. I prayed for her as well as her son. I told her that I don’t know when this season will end or what will happen when she gets out of jail and she has to reestablish a relationship with her children. I have learned over the past few years how important it is not to try to fix when there is nothing fixable. Not to make up an answer when there is no answer. Not to say “peace” when there is no peace. Sometimes we just need someone to sit with us in the dark places rather than to try and make the messiness of life sound better. False hope is so destructive.