If you’ve ever stopped by here, you know I spend a lot of time in jail and that I love it. I talk about the jail all the time. Yes, it’s my job, but it is a lot more than that to me.
Yesterday was another one of those rock-my-world kind of days in the Female Detention Center of the Orange County Jail. The afternoon started off as it usually does, but things ran smoothly because we are not just “taking a service” into the jail now. The women who have been there for a few months or more have really begun to own church as their own. They set up the room before we arrive, take over meeting-and-greeting, invite others in, and lead others who are new to the jail.
I can’t tell you how powerful it is to see women – young and old – who entered jail with so much anger, bitterness, resentment, and fear turn into loving, engaging, compassionate, and tender leaders. I can’t help but be humbled by their courage and vulnerability.
Twice a month, we get to share live worship with the women in the jail, and yesterday Rachel Cohen joined us. Rachel is a phenomenally talented young woman. She has her hands in several different buckets, but one of those includes releasing her first album, Poor Wayfaring Stranger. You can listen to it here. My favorite song on Rachel’s album is called “You Were Not Proud”. It is written from the perspective of the adulterous woman in John 8 who was brought out into the streets, still naked from a night of forbidden sexual pleasure, and threatened with death. Jesus approached this woman, and challenged anyone who was without sin to throw the first stone. This woman found freedom in the eyes of a humble Savior.
As Rachel played and sang with every inch of her heart, the women in Dorm H of the Orange County Jail were silent. Silent. Silence doesn’t happen in a room full of women who are constantly distracted by everything going on around them. In that moment, we seemed to be transported to a different place – one without bars and barbed wire and pat searches and shakedowns.
I love that the song is titled “You Were Not Proud”. Jesus couldn’t have had an ounce of pride in him to approach this woman the way he did.
I struggle with pride a lot – specifically in the form of entitlement. I can’t tell you how many times a day I say to myself, “I deserve ________ because I ________.” It kind of grosses me out to think of how often this thought enters my mind. I am so challenged and encouraged by Rachel’s music, this song, and the women in the jail. They are a constant reminder to me that I am in possession of so many things – luxuries even – and that I don’t deserve squat regardless of what I do for a living.
Humility can be learned, and it can also be contagious. The jail is infected with it right now, and I hope I catch what they are spreading.