Sunday, November 01, 2009

“...behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it...” Revelation 3:8

Marco Antonio begged me to meet him at a “Christian” drug rehab center where he has been hanging out. He told me that María, a 20-year-old inmate, really needed to talk with me. I conjured up all kinds of ideas in my imagination about what/who I would encounter in an environment totally foreign to any previous experience of mine. I decided that God would want me to ignore any of those preconceived notions, and prepare to meet María with Jesus’ lenses of “eternal perspective” in place. When I got to this “home” on the “other side of the tracks,” Marco Antonio was outside waiting for me. He met me with these words: “Everyone is waiting inside to hear what you have come to share.” …open doors…open doors…open doors… “Uh, Marco Antonio, who is ‘everyone’?” “Well, everyone who is committed here.” “Wait, what about María?” We waited for the door keeper to give clearance and unlock the big metal barrier for us. We passed through the entryway, and I felt my heart cringe at the sound of the dead bolt behind us.

The stuffy, fetid, ramshackle room, with one light bulb hanging from its cable and one deformed ceiling fan, had no windows or other way out. It was full of 40 or 50 men, heads shaven, sitting on assorted grimy, plastic chairs waiting to “hear.” The only two young ladies were sitting in the back row of the room; neither one was María. The leader of the group home conveyed me into an adjoining open-doored, office-like room to pray before I spoke to the “family.” That room was connected by a chiseled-arch opening to another room entirely lined with about 25 well-worn blankets spread on the floor, obviously the beds of half the “family.” I felt like crying. How inconceivably hideous their lives must have been to make them willing to commit to being locked into this unbelievably miserable place. Then, to the “family,” Marco introduced me as the wife of the man who shared the love of Jesus with him when he was a desperate drug addict, and no one else in the world cared. Just then, María and her friend, Rubí, walked in from kitchen duty. They took seats in the back of the room with the other girls.

I told the “family” that I had come prepared to meet María; I wanted to be her friend; but more than anything I wanted her to meet my very best Friend. I admitted to them that my being there must seem pretty ridiculous to them; they must be thinking, “This lady hasn’t got a clue about us.” I told them that they were entirely right, there are LOTS of things I have no clue about, but my best Friend knows everything about them, and everything about me, and He loves us anyway. He wants to forgive and forget every bad thing in our past. He loves us so much that He gave His life to prove it and to pay the price none of us can afford that we may be accepted into His family. He alone can give us the power or authority to first, become children of God, and then power to overcome the temptations that fill this world.

Then, out of my Huichol bag, I took a little Wordless Book bracelet that I had brought along to give to María. I kept thinking about the irony of a 56 year-old lady, who “hasn’t got a clue,” taking a ridiculous little 5-beaded bracelet out of her Huichol bag to share the “Good News” with 40 or 50 guys who have been to the gates of hell and back time, time and again. God does choose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. They listened like a classroom full of Sunday school boys to every word as I shared Revelation 21:21 and the golden bead representing the golden street in Heaven where there is no sadness, no death, no illness, no addiction, no hatred, no suffering, but where God is – God who made us and loves us and who wants us to belong to His family. Then they heard the bad news from Romans 3:23 and 6:23 about the black bead that symbolizes the sin that keeps every one of us from a perfect relationship with God who created us and loves us. Next we talked about the red bead that corresponds to the very “Good News” that in spite of our hopelessness and sin, God loves us so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to shed His red blood on the Cross and die to pay the price of our debt, offering us the GIFT of abundant and eternal life with Him, our Father. I invited María to come to the front with me, and I told her that I loved her and wanted to be her friend. I wanted to give her this special bracelet. At first she was afraid to take it, never looking me in the eyes, but when she finally reached out and took the bracelet, the guys started clapping. I could hardly believe how responsive they were to something so simple. Then we compared María’s gift to God’s gift. She didn’t deserve it, she didn’t have to work for it, and she didn’t have to pay for it. She received it because I gave it to her; and that’s how God’s gift works. Nothing we do can keep God from loving us, and nothing we do can earn His gift. He has paid the price; we just receive it. Next, we talked about the white bead on María’s bracelet that stands for the clean hearts of those who have believed. No matter how bad we have been or how hard our life has been Jesus has paid the price and promises to wash our hearts clean and become our Lord and Savior, if by faith, we believe. We can start over with a totally clean heart. I asked if anyone of them would like to trust Him and receive His gift right now. We prayed together, every one of them repeating aloud after my words. I have no idea how many or if any of them sincerely joined the “family.” I’m not the judge; but I do know that everyone of them heard that God loves them and that He has made a way, the only way, for them to receive forgiveness and to become sons of His. After we prayed, I told them I wasn’t as naïve as I looked; I know how unbearably impossible it is to resist the temptations on the “outside” or even on the “inside.” But God promises to be our Father, and He will never leave our sides. That’s where the little green bead comes in. It typifies growing things that are examples of what newborn babies in God’s “family” are to do as they talk to God, listen as God talks to them through His Word, and as they talk to others, learning and telling the truth about Jesus.

My imagined idea of what a Tepic drug rehab center is like is forever changed. Never again will I be able to gloss over a request for prayer for someone who is in one. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get permission to start a weekly discipleship class in this “home,” one home of many. …open doors…