Yesterday I went with my father to the Hutchins State Jail. He preaches at various state institutions around northeast Texas, and being in my area he asked that I go with him to sing. I didn’t go in yesterday with the best of attitudes. I did it to honor my father. He wanted me to go with him, so I agreed. I couldn’t really see how my singing added anything to the program. I worked to get it right, but what motivated me was primarily that I didn’t want to be shamed in front of my dad. I did not hold the prisoners in high regard. I did not love them. I didn’t feel that I needed their approval or appreciation. I approached them with suspicion and arrogance.
Despite all that was wrong with my attitude, I did want to please Yahweh. As the moment approached I asked His help to make my singing glorify Him. I wanted to do it for Him and not for myself. It was then that He brought to my mind all the people I have known whose lives were radically changed. I was reminded of Jesus’ words, “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47 NASB) I think the real key there is for us all to realize how much we have been forgiven. For those who engage in flagrant sin, the evidence is more obvious, but we have all been forgiven much.
Suddenly I saw a room full of potential. I saw people loved by Yahweh who were or could be very aware of how much they had been forgiven. I saw a room full of real and potential dedicated servants who could leave that place and do more for God than thousands of pew sitting church regulars on the outside ever seriously consider. I walked up to the front of the stage with a renewed desire to bless those men with what little I could offer them. The track was Who am I by Casting Crowns. The refrain is as follows:
Not because of who I am
But because of what You’ve done.
Not because of what I’ve done,
But because of who You are.
There aren’t many lyrics to the song, but I managed to miss a line in the second verse, being disconcerted by the enthusiastic response from the audience. I was filled with joy that it seemed to mean something to them. I delighted that I could share a blessing. I think of it as an insignificant contribution to their lives, but if I can use a cliché, I think I got a lot more in return. I got a renewed understanding of love, forgiveness and mercy. I left without my performance track. The chaplain and prisoners who lead the worship wanted to learn the song. I can buy a new CD. What Yahweh gave me in that simple prison chapel can’t be bought.