Life without love. It’s hard to imagine, unless you’ve lived it. Emily* can’t remember a time in her childhood when she felt loved. Her parents were strangers, inhabiting a smoky haze of drugs and alcohol.
That haze seemed so much more appealing than her reality of poverty and abuse. So, she embraced it, hoping it would fill the emptiness that sat heavy in the pit of her stomach.
Of course, drugs and alcohol don’t come for free. And a drug addict is not an attractive employee. So, Emily resorted to theft. She had nothing to lose and only her need to escape driving her.
She covered the emptiness in her soul with marijuana, ice and whatever else she could get her hands on, but she could never fill it.
There was no escape. No way out. No freedom in addiction. And no love. She was a slave to it, and it was a merciless master.
She sat, emotionless in the dock as her sentence was read out. Multiple accounts of theft and violence. She knew, without a doubt, that she was going ‘inside’ and she was all alone.
A drug addict in a jail cell, coming down from their last ‘fix’ is a jarring sight. Sweats, vomiting, tears, hopelessness: that’s Emily’s first memory of prison.
Her second memory is the big, warm smile on the beaming face of a prison chaplain as she sat beside her. Emily spoke, and she listened. Really listened. Emily had never experienced that before. She shared her life story, along with the shame and rejection she had carried along the way. As she spoke, she felt a weight lift from her chest.
When she finished sharing, the prison chaplain spoke about the love of Jesus. That he already knew everything about her life, and he loved her. He wanted to give her a hope and a future, free from drugs and crime.
Emily’s face lit up and the emptiness in the pit of her stomach was filled with warmth and light. When she looked in the mirror, she no longer saw a hopeless criminal, she saw the smiling face of one who is loved by God.
In prison, Emily found the two things that had been missing from her life: love and freedom. And she experienced an emotion she’d never felt before: pure joy. Emily met regularly with the prison chaplain during her time in prison, and attended the weekly chapel services. Growing in her faith and her knowledge of God.
Emily has been on the ‘outside’ for two years now. She’s attending her local church and studying Theology. She would like to become a chaplain one day, and bring love and freedom to others in prison.