I became a mentor for a ministry to teen moms, thinking I was perfectly suited for the role: I had taught middle and high school for twenty-one years, my granddaughter was born to unmarried parents, and my Omi was raised by a single mom. I am realizing now, only God is perfect.
The night of the first meeting I attended, the leader asked me to drive Jacqueline and her two babies. I asked Jacqueline questions; her answers were guarded. I felt awkward throughout the meeting: a well-planned, but chaotic, progression from food to fun to a gospel presentation. I comforted myself by holding Jacqueline’s youngest baby.
On the way home, Jackie voluntarily told me her story. Her baby daddy, whom she loved, was working in Texas, but married in Mexico. She had been receiving angry texts from his wife. At nineteen, she had not yet finished high school.
I asked if I could be her GED tutor. She agreed, but usually when I scheduled a lesson, she cancelled. Eventually I got the hint and started asking her to lunch, for conversation rather than teaching.
Then one day, she telephoned. “Miss, I think I have to go to jail.” She had been stopped for speeding and she didn’t have her driver’s license. When the tickets came, she didn’t have the money to pay, so she ignored them, which meant a third ticket, for being a scoff-law. The total penalty was over a thousand dollars. My first instinct was to pay for her, but a friend, a local policeman, said, “Jails in Texas are not bad. She will only serve one day for each one hundred dollars charged for her least costly ticket.” Jackie’s lowest ticket penalty was around three hundred and fifteen dollars, three days of jail time. I asked Jackie what she wanted to do. She arranged for her mother to watch her babies, and I picked her up to take her to jail. After she turned herself in, I asked if she could take a Bible into jail with her. After searching for contraband between the pages, the guards agreed.
The next night, I visited. Jacqueline came out dressed in a tangerine jumpsuit, but her face was glowing. “I’ve read all the way to Ezekiel. Why do they have so many wives?”
“The Bible is about imperfect people, like the people you know. The star of the Bible is a perfect God who truly loves imperfect people.”
Jacqueline had spent the last day and a half reading the Bible starting in Genesis. By the time I picked her up on the third day, she had read all the way to Revelation. Her comment on that book was, “People who do bad things will be punished.”
“Yes, Jackie, but we all do evil. The only way we’ll not be punished is if we rely on Jesus to take our punishment.”
Jail was the last place I wanted to take Jackie, but in jail she began to understand the magnitude of God’s justice and mercy. I should have known, I have read of several other times he has set prisoners free.
Application: Dear friend, be aware that God’s plan for helping those you love might be different than your plan. Weary friend, when circumstances surprise you, rest assured, God has planned a way to use them for your good.
Reflection: What hard circumstances in your life have turned out better than you expected?
The Message//REMIX: The Bible in Contemporary Language by Eugene H. Peterson