He sits behind the glass in bright orange coveralls, holding the black phone to his ear. He's smiling at us but behind his smile are a thousand thoughts and with only twenty allowed minutes, he's itching to get them all out. My mom listens and I watch his moustached mouth moving incessantly. She's whispering a word now and then to keep me part of the conversation. He shifts his weight on the stool and begins gesturing with his hand. He's telling her all about his dog. He's asking her to retrieve the little Jack Russel Terrier from his apartment building superintendent and take care of her until he's out. He misses her terribly and Mom passes the phone to me so he can brag about all the tricks he's taught her. I listen, nodding and smiling. Rosie fetches his glasses, plays dead, can balance a ball on her nose. There's adoration in his voice and I think about what makes a man who's so sensitive and gentle, punch someone in the face.
It's not the first time he's been in here and it's all anger related. But there's a teddy bear deep inside and I am angry at the enemy for prowling in his territory, for taking advantage of a vulnerable and sad little boy, a boy whose mother left him. Now, close to fifty, he doesn't know how to let go of this lifestyle. I hand the phone back to my mom as they work out details and street names. I quickly glance to the left and right at the other inmates--faces also desperate to make time slow for the connection they've been waiting for all week. One visiting woman is crying and just staring through the glass at her loved one. Another brings her baby and holds the pudgy bundle up to the window. Is that Daddy?
I'm snapped back from my thoughts as Mom hands me the phone. Do I have anything I want to say? All I can manage is, "We'll be praying for you." I know it's what he needs more than anything and he drops his head in gratitude. Our time is up and the phone line is cut off. He and Mom, being closer in relationship, hug themselves and point to each other, loving through the barrier. We stand and wave. He's not leaving until we walk away, like catching one last sight of hope on the other side--a picture to carry with him of two people who cared enough to remember him today. I smile one last time and turn toward the locked door.
I had reluctantly come to "visit those in prison" as it is written in Matthew 25. This afternoon was to be company for my mom. I had felt I didn't have time to come but my husband had said I "needed to go", that we all need to experience this. He was right. The atmosphere of this place is humbling. How different am I from this unfortunate man? I too, am a sinner dealing with anger but I can hide it a lot better than he can. Does that make me more righteous in the eyes of a Holy God? Do I break His heart when I do what I know I shouldn't? Mom and I stroll through long corridors and return to the entrance of Maplehurst Prison, pick up our belongings and return our locker key. I speak the Holy Spirit's peace to our friend because His Spirit is resident in me, so I can. I open my heart to God moving me through this experience today. I want to see life through Jesus' eyes. I want to go where He wants me to go, without reluctance. I want to praise Him for the grace that allows me to wake each morning in my own home, regardless of my sin. I want that which breaks His heart, to break mine.