I feel compelled to put into words the experience. Yet I am without a cohesive thought. Where and how do I start?
I could try to convey the physical surroundings with poetic phrase, carefully crafted words. Barren. Foreign. Uninviting. Colorless. Except for the greens. I remember the greens.
Eyes watched from every corner; although not entirely suspicious by nature, these eyes were trained, however, to notice and mistrust. Voices from loudspeakers shouted questions when we were lost, confused and dismayed in a maze of corridors. Where did that voice come from? Who did it belong to? Where are these people who see our dilemma? Watching. Ever watching.
Black metal bars on two small windows. A miniscule peek at the snow and sun for us - not for him. This was our corridor, not his.
Heavy doors shut with finality at every turn. More questions. Another door. Bare wooden benches. Metal stools. Painted, cold steel grids. Cream colored walls everywhere. Cement floors.
There he was. My nephew. Twenty-three. His head was clean shaven. Last time I saw him it was covered with long red hair. He smiled with a surprised recognition. "Uncle Rick, Aunt Darlene. Louissa, you're alot more grown up than I remember."
He had changed a bit as well. Maximum security has a way of doing that, I suppose.
"Fifteen years, twelve if I keep my nose clean. I'll be 38 when I get out, if I do the whole thing." He had been pretty stalwart until those words were said. He choked a bit now, his eyes misted. "I try to just think about one day at a time." Of course, I thought. How else could you do this?
It's a long story, though simple; a tale as old as time. Sin crept near his door, and like the simple lad of Proverbs fame, he fell headlong.
"I pray every night for the Lord to forgive me. But then I find myself having to ask again the next night, too." There was a tinge of desperation in these words. "My parents told me that God is kinda like parents. When a kid does something wrong, he comes in and tells them he's sorry. They forgive him. A couple of hours later he comes in and apologizes again. They remind him that they forgave him. That night he says he's sorry again. 'Son, at some point you just have to stop asking and start reminding yourself that God has forgiven you.' "
"Ten minutes and visitation ends," the voice boomed.
"Let me tell you the quick version of a dream I had," he said with excitement. I will abbreviate the telling even more than he did. I wouldn't get the details right, but I sure remember the main points. He was at a town square in the midst of a crowd. A wounded man was near him. Another troubled man as well. Soon the speaker arrived on stage. It was Jesus. As Jesus addressed the crowd, my nephew felt Him looking directly at him. Soon he called up a guest speaker. Much to my nephew's surprise, it was him. My nephew began talking, then reached out to touch the wounded man that had been next to him. The man was healed. Others were helped, too.
"I think the Lord was showing me that He has something more for me to do. Somehow He has something for me to do."
His story was truncated as the voice interrupted again, this time to send us on our way. We reached under the iron grid and held his hands. His eyes misted once again as we assured him of our love. We prayed together and promised another visit soon. Next time we would come with books, lots of books. He is allowed to have books, he has plenty of time to read, and Jesus has lots to tell him.
If you think of him, pray for him. Pray for an understanding of salvation, for a sincere heart of love for God, for God's grace and mercy to be his. My nephew has done hideous things. But our God's arm is not too short. Even in that place.