Like the great light of the sun opening the morning-glory anew each day, so were Jacobs letters to me. Opening me layer by layer, until the deepest parts of me were covered in light.
I began acknowledging that this light that searched deeper and deeper, leaving no stone unturned, was also plunging deeper and deeper into my heart. Admiration had developed into love.
There was deep emotion, but no personal interaction.
It was time to discover what spending time together would be like. Four months after we began corresponding we had our first date.
I had not been able to sleep much the night before in anticipation of what the day might hold. What would it be like in his presence? I would have two and a half hours to think about it in the car as well.
Before leaving home I made myself some tea. Each bag came with an encouraging message. That morning my message read, “Be Yourself.” I tore the tiny tag from my tea and placed it in the corner of my rearview mirror. I captured my thoughts, refusing anxiety residency. Instead I prayed the God of peace would help me be myself.
I had this bad condition in the past to be a people pleaser. I easily conformed to the person I thought others wanted me to be. My need for acceptance denied me ever truly knowing the woman I was made to be. But, I was a new creation, fearfully and wonderfully made. (2 Corinthians 5:17, Psalm 139:14) Best of all, I’d been accepted by the One that matters most. (Ephesians 1:6)
When I arrived at Attica Correctional Facility, I was already mostly comfortable with the routine. I would fill out my paperwork and sit waiting for nearly an hour to be called to have my photograph taken, and then sit some more to wait to be called through security. The minimalist I am, had nothing to take off but my shoes before walking through the metal detector. The guard searched my pocket-size bag before stamping my right hand with their secret formula. Once I received my pass I waited at the locked gate for the next guard to buzz me through.
The heavy gate closed behind me. I was locked in a room between two large metal gates. I could go no further until placing my stamped hand under a black light. The guard was able to see what I could only feel. As a series of numbers magically appeared the second electric gate was opened. and I made the walk to the building straight ahead. There I was buzzed in and made to show my “pass” to another guard. With a glance and a nod, yet another guard unlocked the final heavy door before entrance to the visiting room.
I handed my pass over to one of the two guards at the front desk who assigned me a table, and I waited while the other called for my inmate. This was the beginning of his process through security to our visit.
As I waited I bought each of us a beverage, grabbed a Bible, and began to read. After nearly two hours of my initial arrival to the facility, I looked up to see the most handsome smiling face I had ever laid eyes on entering the room. His smile was contagious.
After our brief embrace we sat down together, and I felt like a school girl. This man is GORGEOUS! His outgoing personality quickly brought comfort, and made being myself all to easy.
We instantly fell into conversation and laughter. It felt as if we had done this many times before. We shared an overpriced lunch of processed vending machine food, had our photos taken, and even played some cards.
Though we were surrounded by tables of other inmates and their guests, dozens of surveillance cameras, and guards everywhere, I got lost in this man and nothing else existed.
I don’t remember all that we discussed that day, (though I do remember a couple of our inside jokes, such as our flyovers 😉 ) but a few things embraced my heart so strongly that I could never forget.
At one point our conversation got deep, and somewhat serious. We were playing cards at the time. Jacob set his cards down, took mine gently from my hands, and pushed them all to the side. After removing every distraction he turned to me, placing his hand on mine, giving me his full attention. He gave me and our conversation all of himself. Completely undivided.
In a world of multitasking, no person has ever displayed their commitment to hearing me the way Jacob did in that moment.
Another great display of his character came when I returned from the bathroom. As I approached the table this man stood, pulled out my chair, and waited for me to be seated before sitting himself. In a room full of hardened hearts and images that needed maintaining, this man exemplified honor and respect. In the year I have been visiting this man, he doesn’t miss an opportunity to show me honor in this way, even teaching and encouraging our boys to do the same. In the year I have been visiting this man, he is the only one I have ever witnessed treat their guest in this manner.
Not only is Jacob the most beautiful man I have ever seen on the outside. He is also the most beautiful man I have had the privilege of knowing inside. I had the BEST first date ever!
The greatest thing is, each date keeps getting better and better.