I know her back story and she knows mine. Our spirits connect at a different level…even though we are about as different as could be.
I am young. She is old enough to be my grandma.
I am short. She is tall.
I have light-colored, straight hair. She has dark, curly hair.
I have pale skin. She has chocolately skin.
I visit from the free-world. She wears an inmate tag.
We were born and raised in different countries, so we have different accents.
But inside, we are made of the same things, and we both are in love with the same Jesus. I am learning that this is all that matters.
It was the second day of this particular class and I still hadn’t seen her in the mass of women coming and going. This was unusual since she never missed a class, even if it was her 8th time going through it. After lunch, she came bursting through the door with one of her young friends she was mentoring. I looked up to see her face beaming. She shrieked my name from across the room. She raised both hands in the air to signal how happy she was to see me. She gave me a high-five and held my hand there for a second. “I just love you,” she said. I told her I loved her too. This was our normal greeting.
She started chatting happily to MaryEllen and I about how glad she was to see us and rambled on about life. She wanted to know how we were doing and told us what she was learning.
All the while, the girl next to her stood quietly and watched us. Curious eyes staring. Wondering. It’s a real thing to be invited into the space of others…especially in a prison setting where they size you up with trust issues. I could see it in the way she watched us…she was deciding if she was going to “let us in”.
Finally, my old friend turned to the young lady and introduced us. She waved her hand towards us: “These two girls are our homies. They are locked up WITH US in here.” She smiled at us, ear-to-ear.
I’ve never in my life been introduced to someone like that, and honestly, may never again. But for the moment, it choked me and I could feel the tears rising in my eyes. This was the most beautiful way I had ever been presented to someone.
Ever since starting into prison ministry 18-months ago, my prayer has always been they would see that I’m not just for them, but that I am WITH THEM. My heart is to be a friend to each of them. To listen to their stories. To spread Hope and give Jesus away.
This friend knew we weren’t just for her. We were WITH her.
“These two are our homies.” The words kinda hung in the air.
In case you need to know the exact definition of a homie: “an acquaintance from one’s town or neighborhood, or a member of one’s peer group or gang.” In my words, I call these kind of folks “my people”, the ones you can count on anytime or anywhere to have your back. In prison and on the street they call them: “Homies.” I’m learning this language and on that particular winter day, it had never been more beautiful.
It wasn’t me in this equation…it was THESE WOMEN who invited me into their world. They let me in. They extended their hands and opened their hearts to me…an outsider who they chose to trust with their friendship. That humbled me.
It’s no small thing to be invited into the inner circle. Our world is full of cliques and groups and gangs and clubs…and we as Christians are no different. We have the power to invite people into our corner of this broken and battered world. To hold out our hand and motion for others to come to our table. To invite the outsider into our inner circle. To hold open the door and point to the Jesus we already know and assure them that there’s room for them and they are wanted.
They don’t have to look like you. They don’t have to act just like you. They just need to be a human with a beating heart and BINGO- you have someone who most likely needs a friend. Not a Facebook like. Not a comment on Instagram. Not a retweet on Twitter. They need a person, flawed, real-life, flesh-and-blood friend.
Go. Be. That. Friend.
Invite that person who is COMPLETELY different from you. Sit at the same table with people who aren’t in the same age group and don’t dress like you do and don’t go to the same church as you do.
Most Christians want to have friends that look, act and sound just like themselves. I don’t know about you, but that’s a boring world. It’s a poor view of Christianity. What’s more, it’s not Biblical. God is our Creator, which means He is creative…which means He likes color and diversity and being different. That’s why no two snowflakes or human beings are alike. He loves variety. He made it that way on purpose.
What if we just starting loving people like Jesus did? What if we were to celebrate our differences and the God who has created the variety in us?
“These two girls are our homies.” Truth is, my friends behind bars took a chance on letting me in their world. I’m not exactly like them and I am a human with a ginormous ability to fail…but they were willing to risk it and open their hearts to me. They invited me to their table. They invited me to their corner of the world. They called me their homie.