But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
What comes to your mind when you hear those four words? Could it be the bus stop, the doctor’s office, a kid’s soccer game or maybe even your front porch? When you think of waiting, do you get anxious, excited or just downright frustrated?
We live in a fast food society with an immediate gratification generation; we as a society have lost the ability to patiently wait. However, as a follower of Jesus Christ, it is the very thing I know that I have been called to do. Wait on the Lord, be still, those are not “give it to me now,” kind of directions but rather instructions so that God can be God and I can be me.
My bags were packed and my goodbyes had been said when the phone rang and I was informed that my paper work did not go through and that my access to the prison had been denied. I was just hours away from leaving to minister in one of the nation’s largest women’s facilities. I was prayed up and prepared to go. All of a sudden, I felt like a door had just been slammed shut.
That feeling lasted but just a second, when the spirit of God gently reminded me that He had called me to go. I assumed it was to minister on the inside but as the options played out; it was evident that He had another plan for my visit to this particular facility. I found myself excited and full of anticipation, expecting great things from the very God who created this universe.
My options came down to this. I could stay home and lift the team up in prayer from under my roof and feel sorry for myself. On the other hand, I could join the team for a road trip, relationship building and vision casting. Sounds like something Jesus would have done on the road with His disciples. When the time came for the team to go in, I could sit in the waiting room, I could wait outside the bars with others who were waiting to get in to see their loved ones. I could be actively praying for the team as they ran three services and I could sit and minister to those who were looking for hope and light in a dark and hopeless place.
These options took me straight back to my very first experience when God placed that call on my heart. To reach out to the lost, forgotten and left behind. I was called to wear Him well and to wait well and that is what I did. I found it an honor and a privilege to be able to sit and wait as the Lord moved in a mighty way. Therefore, the option of staying behind on this trip was never really an option but rather what I believe to have been a test; would I go to just wait?
What is a waiting room? It is a building or common part of a building or even a place where people sit or stand until the event they are waiting for occurs. Up until the time of stepping into this ministry, I never thought much about what the waiting room of our American Prisons must have looked like. When the thought of a waiting room came to my mind in the past, I generally thought of places like doctor offices, airports, or even sporting events. It never even crossed my mind until I actually got to experience first hand what this type of waiting room involves.
As the team entered the facility and prepared to go behind bars, I secretly hoped that some how my paper work had been processed and that I would be joining them to minister to the inmates, to the many women I had been praying for over the past several weeks. Though I knew better, the Lord had called me to be still and to wait and that is just what I did. I sat among the family members, as they prepared to go through the process of being allowed to go in and visit those inside.
I quickly moved from the front row of plastic chairs to the back row of plastic chairs, I wanted to be able to actually see those I had been called to pray for. The most unsettling observation I made was the children. Of course, there would be children; it just had not entered my mind. Out of the corner of my eye, I witnessed what appeared to be a grandmother yelling at her grandchildren, threatening to take them and leave them in the car while she proceeded on with her visit. I became very judgmental in what I had been witnessing when all of a sudden the Lord quickly and firmly grabbed my heart and reminded me that I did not know the whole situation. I changed my thoughts and quickly lifted up the three in prayer.
As I sat in the back praying for the lost, I also realized that those waiting to get in also lived behind bars that I could not see. Their prison came in the form of the unknown. They had to put their trust in a system and a set of rules that at times did not make sense or that could change at any moment. Just as I was done with that thought a woman, old enough to be my mother sat down next to me. I made eye contact with her and offered her a smile; she smiled back with a silent thank you and with that the door was opened and I asked her where she had traveled from and how long she had been waiting. She was actually from my hometown, about six hours away. She was there to see her daughter who had been behind bars now for a total of three years; she came every three months to visit her daughter. My heart broke at the thought of only being able to see my mom every three months but I was quickly reminded through my thoughts that I went years without really seeing her and only recently through the redeeming power of Jesus were my chains broken and the prison doors flung open. As I brought myself back to the moment, my new friend asked me about my visit and I was given the opportunity to explain to her my circumstances and how I chose to still come and sit in the waiting area to pray for those outside waiting to get in. Just as I finished explaining, her name was called, she jumped up turned to me with a smile and thanked me, I let her know I would be praying for her and then she was gone.
I sat for a few moments just watching and praying for those being searched before they entered the gates. Even the toddlers could not get in with out being investigated. Most of the children had a dazed look on their face and the ones with them confusion sprinkled in their eyes. Almost a look of “how did we get here?” This had never been what I envisioned as a waiting room until now. All across America, people waiting and wondering when they will be called next, longing for just a moment with the one they love and anticipating the next visit before the very one they were at was over.
I had not been sitting in this particular waiting room for more then maybe twenty minutes or so when an officer came to inform me that unless I was there to visit someone I had to leave. Another team member who was with me informed him of our circumstances. He then directed us to another “waiting room” a trailer outside the main facility called Friends on the Outside. This waiting room was run by mostly volunteers, where people could come and wait with their children, those who were denied access and those who needed to borrow clothes that were acceptable for visits behind bars. There was a tiny little kitchen area and a day care room as well. A game room with a T.V. and a small resource center. I felt like we hit the jackpot, now this is waiting! Not because of where we were at but rather who we were with. Those who had been denied, rejected and sent away were now coming through the doors of the place we were waiting.
My ministry partner and I sat at the kitchen table chatting with a young man whom she had met in the first waiting room. He had come along way to see his wife and he was denied access as well, so here he was waiting as his in-laws and son has to go in for a visit. We listened to his story, the how and why of his situation that brought him to this place for this person. He shared where he had come from and where he planned on going. There was pain weaved in and out of his gruffness and toughness, I could tell he was doing everything he could to not cry. He shared how he was raised in a certain denomination and then how he became a Christian through his aunt but walked away from the faith years ago. He asked us our story and we shared why we were here and some of our past as well.
Then I decided to see if anyone was up for a game of Uno. Here we were, out in the middle of nowhere, denied access to minister, waiting in a giant tin box, being the church. The game was on, the laughter felt like food to the soul and the walls came down. People were circulating in and out watching us play and talk and share. We were ministering without even trying; we were a light in a very dark place without even realizing it. We were able to give him information and resources for his wife and son through the ministry as well as a scripture to take with him as he continued on his journey. It was an amazing experience and to think, that I, for a brief moment thought that the door had been slammed shut when my access had been denied, or had it?
As I was sitting and waiting I learned so much about myself and how far God had brought me. There would have been a time not so long ago that I would have been angry and resentful for having to wait. I would have worried about what people thought and what I must have done to be turned away. Six hours of sitting and waiting, sharing and praying. I had the opportunity to visit and share with those running this waiting room as well as minister to other family members and children that came in and out through out the day.
There were moments of silence that I used to pray and blocks of time where I just sat and stared into the yard. The prisoners were so close yet so far away. With one hour left of the six hour waiting room experience, my eyes started getting very heavy. The thought of laying myself down for just a few minutes sounded so refreshing but I thought about how Jesus asked the disciples to stay and pray for Him and how He must have felt when He found them asleep. With the ministry team inside representing the body of Christ, I just knew I did not want to use that last hour sleeping.
I stepped outside to finish my wait well and as I looked around the grounds all I could see were rocks, rocks and more rocks. As my eyes grazed the grounds, I cried out to God “How can any of this be reconciled?” The spirit of God quickly brought this scripture to my mind.
Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’) and upon this rock, I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.
I could not reconcile what was going on in this American waiting room but He can and He does and His promise is that the powers of hell will not conquer it as well. I found a sudden burst of hope as the dirty dark rocks turned into a vision of what Christ called the church to be. I went from feeling hopeless to hopeful from feeling overwhelmed by the situation to feeling God’s power and authority to walk out this wait.
As the day ended and we walked out of the “waiting room”, I was overcome with gratitude, thanking God for calling me to be still and for calling me to wait on Him. I am learning daily that it is in those very moments of waiting that I have the greatest opportunity to wear Him well and to represent what God called the church to be.
“Be still and know that I am God”.