I’ve often wondered what it must feel like to “come out.” I imagined it to be frightening, considering all the hate and judgement alive in the world. I never thought I would walk that path. But today, I’m sure I understand.
It was a beautiful day in May. The sky was clear and blue. The temperature warm and welcoming. I was excited to be spending the day with my older brother outside. We had spent the majority of our childhood outdoors. It brought us tremendous joy. Sadly, we hadn’t been outside together in over a year.
My brother was residing at Attica Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Upstate NY. I was joining him for a Christian Festival held there annually. I was excited to be able to worship with my brother. That was not something we had ever shared before. I was so grateful for the opportunity.
The entry process to the facility is long and painful. Some of the guards are in as much pain as you, and laugh it off with you, while others spew venom. You can never know what to expect. Someday I will share the lengths of these procedures with you, but this is a story of beauty, so let’s maintain our theme.
After I’d been signed in, I was escorted to a gymnasium located in the back of the grounds. There was a spacious open yard of green grass, and smiling families all around it. It wasn’t hard to find my smiling family. Robert was walking toward me with arms already wide for a hug. He had appreciation and joy slathered on his face. I returned it.
Immediately he began proudly introducing me to brothers who had been impacting his life while in foreign land. I met a handful or two, enough to not be able to remember all their names. There was one I certainly remembered. He was very handsome, outgoing, and proud to introduce his supportive family. I was happy to witness the unity and strong family bond.
After we’d finished introductions, sang praises unto God, and listened to a good word, my brother and I sat at a picnic table enjoying lunch and conversation. Other families were up walking around, enjoying their precious and rare opportunity to wrap up fresh air, sunshine, and family all in one cocoon. Undoubtedly these moments would repeat in their minds, as an escape and hope, until their next distant opportunity. When I caught sight of this Jacob, I literally lost my thought and words. I quickly regained focus and finished some wonderful conversation with my brother. I acknowledged the draw to this man, but I dismissed it temporarily.
My brother and I went to get our photo taken, when resurfaced this Jacob again. His family was behind us in line. We all began sharing conversation, testimony, and family. The connection we had was unveiled through our shared and complete admiration of God. It was the Holy Spirit in each of us rejoicing. It was beautiful and powerful.
The time was passing quickly, and as we ate dessert, we understood the visit was drawing to a close. It seemed as though it had only just begun. The hardest part of any visit is walking away and leaving your loved one behind in a place filled with hate, anger, oppression, depression, and so many more evil things. My heart hurt.
But, I was also encouraged to have met some cool brothers, and hear a couple testimonies. I even added a pen pal to my already existent list. It had unknowingly become a joy to send letters of encouragement to these men, through my brother. I also wanted to add Jacob to this growing list. With a boldness not my own, I made a specific route to say goodbye and agree to be in communication.
Ok, yes, there was most definitely initial physical attraction with Jacob, he is a beautiful creation, but my interest ran deeper. I wanted to uncover it. I wanted to know his story. I had no idea what I was in for.
I hugged my brother farewell and began the even more painful process out. I quickly recognized as badly as visitors wanted entrance to see their loved ones, they also badly wanted a quick exit out. As others pushed, budged, and verbally fought their way to the exit, I remained back, new to it all. I ended up on the last van out and was surprised to discover Jacob’s family was also. During conversation, quietly and gently, I heard “This will be your family.”
Immediately I laughed. That was simply a crazy thought and not possibly the reality of my future.
Looking back at the girl on that van, I see Sarah. Sarah heard “shall have a son.” Sarah laughed (Genesis 18:12) God heard Sarah laugh (v. 13). God heard me laugh. And with a gentle reminder I was humbled.
That day in all it’s beauty would be the bud of a journey in understanding, if even minimally, what it meant to “come out.”
I am a prisoner’s wife.