Prison

This evening I stood in the rain in a parking lot and listened to a woman vent about her unhappy situation.

She reminded me of myself, about three years ago.
I could almost see the prison bars in which her mind was encased, only I was looking at them from the outside this time.

Just five minutes earlier I was parking my car and locking the doors to run in to the store for some necessary items.

I walked toward the front of the store and stopped as her car pulled up.
She leaned out of the window to ask when it would close.
I told her, and she began her tirade with, “Can you believe I am out here buying ingredients for my own Christmas Eve Dinner!?!”

I just looked at her and settled into a comfortable standing position on the wet pavement, knowing she wasn’t looking for an answer. She just needed to blow off steam to someone. Even if it was a tired-looking brown stranger with wet hair standing in the road section of a parking lot.

I listened as she explained her plight.
Four different invitations,
Four dysfunctional situations,
Separation from her son,
“Just let him enjoy the party.”
(That sounded familiar.)
Violent sister, “coulda called the cops”,
And so forth and so on…

While her car was running,
while I stood in the rain,
she gave me the rundown of her holiday drama.

I said it above, I saw my pre-divorced self in her.

A woman so immersed in her own pain that people outside of her psyche were life-preservers to be grasped at, clutched at, clung to with a death grip.

I work hard to forget those days now that the fog has (mostly) lifted.
But God felt I needed a reminder tonight.

Just last night my cousin told me, “You’re so much better.”
And I told her, “I still deal… I am struggling in my walk with God.”.
And I am.
The only thing that keeps my flame of hope lit is knowing that God is not like man.
He is grace and faithfulness.
It simply is who he is.

Knowing God is greater than my own fallen heart gives me strength.
I know as long as I want him,
he will make a way for us to be together.

He sent Jesus, after all, to be a bridge.

The woman in the car was broken.
Beyond ability to extend basic consideration toward a stranger who wanted to get out of the cold rain.
In her mind, her suffering was more important.
Her plight superceded mine.

And in a way, even though she was oblivious to her rudeness, the facts were true.
She was in trouble, but her troubles were not waiting at the four family parties she was avoiding.

Her troubles are waiting in every mirror for her to spot them and recognize them in her own gaze.

When she does, they will begin to disappear.
::If:: she doesn’t hide from what she sees.
If she starts pulling the thorns out of her own heart by the roots.

It is hard.
Shame accompanies the initial work, and no one likes shame.
It is only forgotten once the sweat runs down one’s back from the labor of change.

She asked me what I was doing there and I told her what I was picking up from the store, that I had to work tomorrow, but I would see my children in the evening.

She wanted to know where I would be working so I told her it was in a mental hospital for children, hoping, even as I said the words, that she would recognize her situation was not nearly as dire as she thought it was.

Instead she rattled off a few names of mental hospitals and asked me which one I would be in while informing me which one she was in last.

I told her the name of the hospital and she began to slowly drive away, still talking about the reason she had been in one herself.

She is not ready to leave her prison.
For now, she is too comfortable blaming everyone else.

I do hope things change for her, though.
For her sake, and for her son’s.

I walked into the store thinking about the ingredients I needed to purchase, unable to forget her face, the sound of tension in her voice, and the look that was in her eyes while she spoke to me.

Those things clung to my mind the way the smell of cigarette smoke stayed in my nostrils after wafting up to me from the interior of the car.

It had hurt to see the old me in her eyes.
To look at her and remember where I was back then.
Damned if I didn’t almost see and smell the pungent scent of metallic prison bars, wet from sweaty palms.

It was good to be reminded, even as I sorrowed for her…
It was good to be reminded of that distinctively loud, grinding, squeaking sound of a prison door swinging open.

To be reminded that we often create our own mess and that the only key necessary to open a cage is our willingness to work on our selves.

It was good to have a testimony that I had come so far.
Good to know I was free.
Good to feel it.
And Amazing…
Amazing to finally see it.

God be with the lady in the sporty red coupe.
Be with her and her son, tonight.
And show her that the lock on her door is a figment of her imagination.
That if she leans on it just a little….
Just show her, Lord.
The way you showed me.
Don’t leave her in there. ♡

Faithful God.
I know you will lead and guide.
You can’t help it.
It is who you are.

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