I was sitting in the doctor’s waiting room with one of my children when I heard the door open behind me and the sound of shuffling feet and chains rattling. I immediately turned to look and saw a prisoner, escorted by two guards, with feet shackled and hands cuffed behind her back.
It was a young, maybe 20 year old, woman.
I immediately thought, “She must be a violent criminal to be shackled and guarded so heavily,” and I ran through the scenario in my head of what I would do if she tried to strangle me with her chains. You know like in that episode of Walker, Texas Ranger? (It involved the mad ninja skills I know in my imagination. You do NOT want to mess with me in my imagination…)
And then I did what anyone would do. I posted about it on Facebook.
The guards told the prisoner to stand against the wall and she shuffled to a corner and stood, head bowed shamefully, facing the corner. One of the guards cleared her throat uncomfortably and told her she didn’t have to stand that way, and I don’t know what the prisoner did next because I was too embarrassed to stare any longer.
I checked my Facebook and saw that people were responding to my post with comments that made me think of more than just my first gut reaction of fear and imaginary ninja skills, but of compassion and curiosity.
Who was this woman? This girl? Why was she so heavily guarded? She seemed so ashamed, even… repentant?
When I looked back again she was being escorted into a room, head still bowed. The more I thought about her the more I wanted to talk to her.
I wanted to tell her that I don’t know why she is imprisoned, but there is Someone who can set her free. I wanted to tell her that Jesus Christ can forgive her sins, wants to forgive her sins, no matter how shameful they are. That there is good news for her to celebrate today, even while she remains shackled; Jesus died and rose again to give her eternal life!
While we waited in our little room to see the doctor, I wondered if I would see her again on our way out. Sure enough, I did. The door was ajar and I could see the doctor was examining her, asking her questions, but she never lifted her head, too ashamed to look up.
I briefly wondered if I should be brave enough to bolt in and interrupt the doctor, blurting out my speech. I never did though, and I can’t shake the feeling that I’m a little like Peter when the girl labeled him as a follower of Jesus, and in a moment of panic, he denied it.
I have prayed for this girl throughout the day and I will continue to do so. I still wonder if I might have said, if someone might still say something to her that would give her hope and dignity once again.
(Thank you Facebook fans who gave me some good meat to chew on today!)