We were juggling breakfast foods, paper plates, and cups of hot coffee as we walked back to our hotel room. My roommate and I were gearing up towards a day of ministry in prison and our cheerful chatter bounced off the hallway walls. We were excited to be part of the Bill Glass team and share the good news of Jesus with the inmates we were going to meet in just a short few hours.
“Do you have any daughters?” A young man with shoulder length, graying hair was standing in the hallway. He was holding a crumpled little baggie with hair ties in one hand and had a brush in his other hand. Why would he ask a question like that? Does he want a date? Is he a pervert? His appearance was a little disheveled, he wore thick glasses, and I noticed that his mental sharpness did not match ours.
“No,” I answered. I had daughters at home, but none here at the prison ministry weekend. My roommate and I looked at each other puzzled. “Do you think that there are other ladies here with daughters?” the young man asked. “Yes, I’m sure there are,” I answered turning to leave. I wanted nothing better than to escape this awkward situation.
My roommate has a heart that is just like Jesus’ heart. She is able to love freely and with reckless abandon. Instead of joining my attempt to escape, she was intent on finding out what the young man really wanted. “Why do you need a lady with daughters?” she asked.
“Because I need someone to put a pony tail in my hair,” the young man said. I am ashamed to say that I didn’t really want to brush this young man’s hair. His hair looked greasy and stringy – but my roommate quickly said, “I’ll do it! Let me put my food in my room and I will be right back.” I heard the young man barking like a shih tzu who just saw the mailman as we entered our room, he was ecstatic to find help with his dilemma.
My roommate brushed this young man’s hair talking with him gently as she put his mind at ease. She neatly pulled his hair back and wrapped the rubber band around with ease. She smiled warmly as she handed his brush back. When she was done, she wished him a great day and the young man’s heart soared with joy. “Thank you! Thank you!” he exclaimed as he walked away.
I realized that maybe my character needed a little more work. I felt ashamed that my first reaction was to escape rather than to help. I was humbled by witnessing such a true act of empathy and love. Why didn’t I love like that? What was holding me back?
Living for Jesus is a tough life. He doesn’t let us stay in a comfortable place for very long; there is always something to work on within ourselves. There’s a point in our lives when Jesus begins to radically prune ugly habits from our lives and a strong character, much like His, begins to develop. We first tackle the obvious character defaults such as eradicating foul language from our vocabulary or setting Christ-like goals and achieving them. We struggle with spending time with Jesus daily or sometimes just making it to church regularly. Then the issues we need to change turn inward to habits that are not so blatantly obvious to others.
This week was a pruning week for me. James 4:17 rang loud and true for me as I thought about this experience, “So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it” (HCSB). I knew exactly what needed to be done and all I wanted to do was run. Ministering to the “least of these” (Matthew 25:40) extends far beyond the prison walls. The “least of these” happens when we least expect it. The “least of these” happens when we are rushed or in a hurry. The “least of these” are all around us. My prayer is that Jesus will continue to place me in situations where I, too, can learn to have a greater empathy and to love with reckless abandon.
Next time this happens, if ever, my roommate is going to have to fight me for the hairbrush!
Question for today: What is Jesus changing in your life?