This week I spent two days in jail.
The first day was when I visited my friend Sean (not his real name) in the Stark County Jail. Sean has been arrested for numerous DUIs and most recently violated his parole by once again drinking. In other words . . . he deserves to be in jail. He doesn’t, however, deserve to be forgotten. God loves him and I love him.
The Stark County Jail was much higher security than I imagined. I wasn’t able to sit on a bunk in Sean’s cell and talk with him. I wasn’t able to sit across the table from him. I had to sit at a bank of phones and talk with him via a video monitor (not through a window).
I’m not allowed to take him a book to read—not even a Bible.
We talked for awhile, I prayed with him and then I told him I would be back to see him again.
When I was driving home I was struck by the fact that in some mysterious way I had just visited Jesus and that in an even more mysterious way I had become Jesus to him. (Matthew 25:31-46)
My second day doing time was at the Massillon City Jail. I went with our videography team to film some flash video and sermon trailers for our upcoming teaching series, The Rebel’s Guide.
We were scheduled to be alone in the cell block but unfortunately a SWAT team had made a bust just an hour before we arrived to shoot (poor choice of words). There were high risk prisoners in the house. As a result, the Police Captain took us into a cell and locked the doors behind us. SLAM went the heavy steel doors—just like you hear in the movies. It was an uncomfortable feeling.
The cell we filmed in had four very hard bunk beds, a public toilet (very public), and cold concrete floors. It was actually the perfect location to be reminded that the Apostle Paul spent the last few years of his life in a similar setting.
There was graffiti on the wall above one of the beds. In big bold letters someone had scribbled, “I want out . . . NOW!” Kind of interesting that, in contrast, while he spent time in a Roman jail, Paul chose to write letters about joy and the secret of contentment.
I hope that I never have to do more than visit in a jail. But if for some unforeseeable reason I get locked up like Paul I pray that I’ll be able to write letters of joy rather than scribble demands of release.
Oh, and I hope you’ll come and visit me.