I toured a prison for the first time with some friends. Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. It's taken me a few days to fully process this experience. This place is no doubt one of the darkest places in America. It's been closed since 2009, but the stories still echo through the halls.
One of the things that really stuck in my mind was seeing drawings of Jesus and the cross on cell walls. Throughout the years that this prison was open, there had to have been some men who found Christ. Who gave what was left of their lives to Him. And you know the craziest part of it all? Jesus forgave them and they are with Him in Heaven.
When you read about the kinds of things these men did to be put in this prison, it can be hard to give compassion to them. But Jesus does. In abundance. He went to the cross for these men as well as for you and me.
After the tour, David Crowder was playing a concert in the prison yard. The yard where convicts would have walked. Possibly prayed. Possibly been overcome by evil. I like to imagine a few men crying out to God from the lowest pit one can possibly be in on this Earth. Knowing what they did to be in there, but asking God to forgive them. I imagine there were a few men who regretted their actions and would give anything to take back what they did to be in there. Men who held on to Christ as their only source of light and hope in such a dark place.
As Crowder sang out lyrics of worship, the words echoed throughout the mountains and bounced off the prison walls. Words declaring the glory of the Lord. Declaring that He has broken every chain and set the captive free.
I wonder if the prisoners who prayed heart wrenching prayers would have ever imagined that God would be glorified in this way in the very yard they walked circles in. With my shoes off, I felt the grass under my bare feet thanking God for Grace. Even in one of the darkest places, God is still bigger.
What is the most incomprehensible part of it all is that I am no different than one of those prisoners who chose salvation. There is no amount of good works that can earn you salvation or Heaven.
"We have all become like the unclean; all our righteous deeds are like a menstrual rag. All of us wither like a leaf; our sins, like the wind, carry us away." Isaiah 64:6 CEB
Even if you read your bible every day, never miss a Sunday service, and treat people well, these things will still not save you. Only Jesus and believing in what He did for you. Giving Him your heart and deciding to follow Him no matter what. Earning has absolutely nothing to do with any of it. Because no matter how hard we work to be a good person, we will never deserve the Grace given to us from God through Jesus. It is offered to us out of the love Christ has for us.
"But God is rich in mercy because of his great love for us. We were dead because of our failures, but he made us alive together with Christ." Ephesians 2:4-5
I will always remember the feeling of walking through the halls where prisoners once walked, and thank God for setting me free.
"For God so loved the whole wide world Sent His only Son to die for me Arms spread wide for the whole wide world His arms spread wide where mine should be Jesus changed my destiny" -David Crowder Red Letters