Jailhouse Jesus

For I will restore health to you
And heal you of your wounds,’ says the Lord…  Isaiah 30:17

The following is a restoration story shared in our Church on a recent Sunday morning.

I arrived at prison and found a group meeting announcement for something called Celebrate Recovery.  I thought I might as well check it out, if nothing else maybe they serve cookies.  After eating jail food I really could use a cookie.

Immediately after the first meeting I knew this was exactly where I belonged.  I can’t remember if cookies were served but I remember knowing that I needed this group of women whom had hurts, hang ups, and habits just like me.

I am your sister in Christ and I struggle with addiction.  My journey on earth began in a family consumed with alcohol, drugs, violence, and sexual abuse.  My first childhood thoughts of God were that He must be mean for putting me here and that I must have done something very bad.  Hence, my fear of God began and I knew that I was on my own.  Isolation and surviving on my own became my theme and addictions became my numbing tools.

When I began puberty, I began to use food in hopes of covering up what was happening to my body as a way to hide from the predators I lived with.   No matter how many candy bars I ate, it didn’t seem to help.   At age 12 I began to use alcohol and drugs and quickly became addicted to speed and sleeping pills.  A year later I remember walking home after a weekend of drugs, alcohol and promiscuity when the thought of suicide became an option.   I began to make plans on how I would do that when I found myself taking a short cut through the parking lot of St. John’s Catholic Church.  As a last resort I decided to go to confession.  Maybe I didn’t need to commit suicide after all?

In the booth with the Priest behind the curtain, I bravely entered, but I quickly realized that I made a big mistake as the Priest began to yell at me for forgetting the words to my confessional prayer.  I wanted to run out of there as soon as possible so I lied about my sin.  I simply told him that I had used a cuss word, and I almost laughed when he forgave me.

At age 14 I decided to get out of town so I skipped school one day and started hitch hiking.  I heard California had lots of sunshine.  I didn’t know there was so many truck stops.  Having no money, food or bed, and since I had been taught how to earn money from my own father, it became sort of natural for me to prostitute.  A short time later I was arrested in a cheap, dirty hotel outside of LA and put on an airplane back home.  My mom told me that if I ever ran away again she would kill me.

I decided to stick to alcohol and finish high school.  At age 21, I tried to commit suicide.  My wrists were bandaged up in the emergency room and I was sent upstairs to the psych ward.  When I was released from the hospital my mother picked me up and drove me to the airport and dropped me off with a ticket to a city where my aunt lived.  Now I was in a new town and didn’t know anybody and nobody knew me.  It was the perfect opportunity for me to become a new person, without help from anybody, especially God.  After all, he abandoned me in the jungle the first time around, so I could do it up real good on my own.

I took some accounting courses at college and obtained a respectable office position.  I dressed conservatively stylish, fine dined and fine wined, and met my husband.  With my secrets and hidden shame, I became what society calls a Lady.  My husband and I moved but soon after I left him and we were divorced.  Then I took in 3 children from a family member whom was required to go to rehab for 90 days.  That 90 days ended up being from the first day of kindergarten into adulthood.

During that time I became disabled from a chronic progressive disease.   Being full of pride and living by my theme of isolation I didn’t ask for help.   I remember one night when the children were sleeping and I was wondering how I was going to pay the rent.   I became very angry at myself for getting fat once again. I mean, after all, I could earn enough money to pay the rent in just one night if I were still the right size.  Of course, I was old now I would probably be required to offer a senior discount.   At work since I was the bookkeeper I decided to just take the money I needed and open up an accounts receivable on the books so I could pay it back when I could.

I had become a thief.   I found it easy to add to my accounts receivable and pay my rent over and over again.  I became greedy.  One more pair of shoes, one more family vacation, one more set of furniture, one more do it up fancy bow and wrap stuffed Christmas morning, one more, one more, one more…. Then came arrest for embezzlement.  Sitting in a county jail cell for 3 months and off to prison for 9 more.    Who’s in control now?

Isolation without the pretense of control, control of anything.  Not even going to the bathroom when I needed.  I quickly decided that if there was a jailhouse Jesus than I need to wheel and deal with the man.  I told him, how arrogant could I be right? Well I told him anyway to use me as a sacrifice, like all the animals that were killed and sacrificed in the Bible, in exchange for his care and protection of the children of whom I have now abandoned on the other side of these cement walls.  A sense of calm washed over me.  I knew for certain that Jesus heard me and that the children would be ok.

I spent the next 11 weeks reading the Bible and telling myself that I was doing this research into the whole world of Jesus just to make sure that he was the man for the job of taking care of the children.  Every day I found myself on my knees with tears flowing endlessly while I acknowledged my sins in a painfully intimate way.  Here I was, waking every morning and going to bed every night with an unpurchased ticket to my movie of sin and the awareness of the pain I’ve caused others.  I spent my free time walking hours a day around the prison yard talking with Jesus.

Sometimes I fall back into thinking that I alone know what’s best and during these moments I tend to explain to Jesus what and how I think it should be.  I think He actually smiles and laughs as if saying, “My dear child, my dear beloved, you are stubborn girl, give it up!”  This is why I know that I need a community of restoration.

Please keep praying for those incarcerated and those who are just prisoners of their own making that need Jesus.  Maybe that could be you.

F.B. Meyer said, “No one suddenly becomes base.”  It all begins with one small step, that turns into two, then we begin to pick up the pace and start to run and we run faster and faster.  In fact, mankind is the only animal that runs faster when it is lost.

When you are tired of running; Jailhouse Jesus, Living Room Jesus, Barroom Jesus, Carpool Jesus will be right beside you.

Turn to Him.


About Joe Chambers

I am the beloved of the Most High God. I am an avid reader and writer and have been a continuous learner since my college studies in Ancient Literature and English. I live at the base of Mount Princeton in the Colorado Rockies with my wife of over three decades. I believe I have been put here to tell people that God is not mad at them and to show them the way Home. I am the father of three sons, three beautiful daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. I love to read, tell stories, and spend time in the wilderness.
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2 Responses to Jailhouse Jesus

  1. bob hooper says:

    Thanks Joe:  I enjoyed reading this story of grace and forgivness. B.

  2. dave says:

    good one Joe!

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