Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Incarcerated Incarnation

This is the Christmas card I was given tonight at the county jail by L. He drew it for me. I cried of course.

His trial is Friday. We don't know what time. L doesn't know. The jailer didn't know either. L and I only know his court date because the jailer in the other county just sort of blurted it out to me the first time I visited him there. His public defender hasn't been over to see him since the last time he was in court for the preliminary hearing in October. The PD never did return my calls. L and I talked tonight about what happens on Friday. It's not like TV, L tells me. They don't bring you nice clothes to go to court in, not in his world. You go in your navy blue jail scrubs over a T-shirt. Rubber sandals and socks complete the ensemble. If he is released they will give him back the clothes he came in. Back in August. He thinks he was wearing jeans and a T-shirt. Maybe a shirt, too. He can't remember. And he is really hoping to get both shoes back this time. Last time he was in jail, he only got one shoe back, he tells me, so this time he tied them together, hoping that will help. He thinks he was wearing his hiking boots that day because he was fishing when they arrested him. He's hoping so, they are warmer than tennis shoes. I sit with my mouth hanging open as he casually tells me all this. He laughs at me. "You really don't know much about the system do you?" he asks. "Not this part." I admit. And I don't. Much of what I think I know about jails is pieced together from TV and word of mouth and the glimpses from brief little Bible study visits. This is the up close and personal version. This is L's real life. The one he has known most of his life. The one he says that he is really ready to leave behind. I believe him about that. I truly do.

We talked again tonight about what he is to do immediately if he is released. Call me! He has the cell number. He knows I may be with clients. He knows to keep trying. He also knows where I work, and where to find the program where we are planning to get him placed for ninety days to get him going on a healthy life. He now also has a backup number for C...two numbers in fact. He knows she can be trusted to help him if he can't find me. He knows that there is a motel room available to him if the crisis bed is full. We also talked about how changing is hard and that you have to think first and act second....that old lives and old habits call you back and call you loud. We talked about how God made him fine and good and for so much more than jail!

Before I left him tonight I told him how much I hoped that the next time I saw him it would be outside and free. We both cried and prayed for that. We also talked about the worst case scenario. He tells me the longest they can keep him is a year and a day. That would be August. I assured him, if the worst happens, I will be there a year and a day, too.

In the face of all of this I am feeling very helpless tonight. I have this tiny little church with little to call on or muster up for resources and a day job that tethers me from just being where I so long to be on Friday. The system is big and crushing and his blasted lawyer will not call me back. On Friday sometime, something will happen for this boy that may change his life. He doesn't have a coat or someone to meet him at the door or sit in the gallery and smile at him and wish him well. I feel like at the crucial moment I am not able to be there and that feels bad. It is hard for me to trust that if he gets out he will call, that he will not just walk away into his old life again. I know he is God's not mine. He has only been given to my care for this brief time....but I have come to care about this cast away child of God in a deep way. I know that you have all been and are praying. L knows, too. He asked about you all tonight, my "pastor ladies on the internet." Surely it is God who saves us....but I think a winter coat would be a good thing, too.


Kathryn said...

Oh my friend, I identify with so many of the feelings that you're dealing with in this post, and in the situation beyond it (so much so that actually, this comment may be to myself,- so discard it and forgive me if it feels way off course). To be the only friend and support for someone up against The System in whatever long to be completely available because it truly seems that what we can provide might be what they need, to carry the weight of anxious caring...Oh, I've been there and it can be close to all-consuming.
You are wiser than I - with your conscious recognition that L is in God's care - and, if he is released on Friday, then whatever comes next is L's own responsibility. That's hard to deal with too, I know...but somewhere at the back of your mind, as you carry on praying and offering so many amazing gifts of love and support, try to hear those words of Oscar Romero's
"We are ministers, not messiahs".
Many prayers continue for L and for you as you carry the Christ-light for him - and much love xx

Gannet Girl said...

This is heartbreaking. He is graced to have you in his life, but it seems that the reverse is also true.

RevDrKate said...

Kathryn, Thank you for reminds me of my ordination sermon, she said, "we must remember, we are not even the shepherds, we have the Good Shepherd, we are only the assistants to the Shepherd." Your comments were very on!

Thanks GG, Yes, he is such a gift to me!

more cows than people said...

these are the hardest moments in ministry, aren't they? when we're up against our limits. when we are aware of all we can't do.

i have thought a great deal about the "getting out" part of incarceration since walking with a few young men in jail here. it is rough, messy, and fraught with danger.

you surely have done all you can. lifting him and you to light.

may you have a chance to sit with him in freedom and see him blossom, soon.

"PS" (a.k.a. purple) said...

What an amazing gift L has. One of my friends from seminary visits a man on death row in San Quentin. The artwork from the inmates there is amazing also. Holding L, you, and the system in grace and hope.

Katherine E. said...

Like P.S. I want to comment on the fabulous drawing. Wow.

Continuing to hold you both in prayer, Kate.