I traded Bibles with an inmate. I’m not sure it is allowed, we didn’t seek sanction. We have the same translation, his was well used, binding broken, probably twice the weight of mine from being underlined so often and stuffed with notes in the margin. Mine, although ten years old, looked like it just came off the shelf except for a few bent back pages and a coffee stain. In the spirit of the moment we realized we sort of envied each other’s copy. His eyes lit up imagining a fresh book to work with as if it were a wild mustang he could bring into the fold, and me seeing his as a trustworthy map to treasures untold. When the teacher is willing, the student will lead. The first underlined verse I turned to when I got home from visiting the prison was Psalm 139, “O Lord, You have searched me and known me…you are acquainted with all my ways.”
There is a grace to being known by the Author of our wonderful mystery. Sharing the path in a step by step, word for word, journey with an incarcerated gentleman is an honorable humbling. We are both made in Divine image and likeness. The circumstances of our lives that led us to meet at a chapel service in a maximum security state prison are but brief and momentary sufferings not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18) The fellowship that we commemorated by exchanging our leatherette copies of Scripture is one of recognizing Jesus in whomever we meet and representing Christ to whomever meets us along the way. The daily course inside a heavily regulated community such as Pelican Bay State Prison affords certain face to face contacts and connections more often than others because the population’s movements are controlled by outside forces. The happenstance of meeting people in a free environment may seem more random at first glance but are not divine appointments usually acknowledged in retrospect?
Deep calls to deep, our spirit responds to Spirit as the very source of our breath and being. When we allow the joy of fellowship to be the pulse of our heart we can better entertain the angels and the saints in the land, especially when they are temporarily disguised as disagreeable persons. The relationship of being children of God, bound in the Body, joined to the very Family of Christ, is a fresh revelation every time we let someone in our sphere of awareness, compassion and affection. Caspar, the friendly ghost, can’t hold a candle to the excitement the Holy Ghost exhibits when two or more are gathered in His Name. A gesture as simple as shaking hands, sitting down for coffee, or just taking the time to listen to another’s story is how Light spreads in the darkness. Sharing is caring, and most folks, especially the ones behind bars, don’t care what you know, until they know you care.
“For as many as are led by the Spirit, these are the sons of God.” (Romans 8:14) As we walk our walks, eyes lit with amazement and wonder at the goodness of God in the groaning of all creation, it is enough to know we are are not left alone to wander, but seeking the Comforter we find comfort, as it’s offered, in the eyes of the stranger, the friend we have just begun to know, the family member reconciled, the seasoned traveler who has been down this road before, and the Good Book Club member that finds our place in line, side by side with the One Who made us all.