(Post by: Lilly Hobbs)
Today, October 7th, 2021 marks two years since publishing A Thousand Times Over. Two years ago today, I sat in front of my computer completely broken before the Lord, about to write a post that I had no clue would make its rounds through multiple churches in the U.S. and be sent through many other jail pods all across Texas. Our friend, Rocky, was in a Texas jail, we had just gotten back from visiting him, and God had given me the courage to write about our experience.
Now I sit in front of my computer again, broken before the Lord, still wondering what the purpose of this situation truly is. In late August, we received news that Rocky is back in jail.
I am unsure as to why, but I haven’t felt like the Lord wanted me to share this news, and what I have been learning. That is, until today. I haven’t even been able to bring myself to write him a letter yet, because I just don’t know what to say.
Believe me when I say that I’m not mad; that’s not the case at all. I know that sounds crazy, because my flesh tells me that I should be and that it would be way easier to walk away and forget about him, but I just can’t.
Disclaimer: This Jesus thing will really mess you up (in the best way of course).
We went to a conference this past summer that an evangelist named Stephen Manley was doing at his church, and I’ll never forget what he said in one of the evening sessions. He said, “The jail is the last place I would go if I didn’t have to.” I can’t explain how much God has used that statement to work on my heart, especially in this season.
I can personally testify that when God gives you someone to pour into and a place to do so, don’t be surprised if it’s the last person you thought of and the only place that’s on your list of places to never go.
For me, that was a Mexican dude from Texas now known as 05*481 (inmate number), and jail. But, you see, 05*481 has taught me that in the middle of a huge messy situation, ministry can still happen and that we cannot give up on people. The problem is that we aren’t willing to get our hands dirty and stay to support people when it gets tough.
There is ministry in the mess, and it’s time for the American Church to realize that “perfect” isn’t working anymore. Our “perfect” buildings, our “perfect” pastors, our “perfect” worship services, they aren’t working anymore.
Here’s the thing… The world wants to convince us that people like Rocky are just numbers such as 05*481 and that they are not worth our time to speak life and truth into because they are too messed up. I mean, they’ll just go back to their old ways, right? The American Church has bought and sold this lie, and I’m convinced that most have no idea that they have.
I included James 1:2-4 in A Thousand Times Over which says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” What a powerful verse!
God warns us that we will indeed face trials, and He also expects us to be in unity with one another. What a relief! God tells us that the trials and testing of our faith produces steadfastness within us. Why are we so afraid to be real and live life together?
I’ll be honest, Rocky chose, for about a year, to try to live life alone and without us because he knew we would tell him that he needed to get right with Jesus in order to fix his deal. That was really hard after helping him start afresh in January of 2020. However, when Rocky called my dad for the first time again a couple weeks ago from jail, do you know what he said? He said, “I need you.”
The 05*481’s of the world need us, y’all, and whether we want to recognize it or not, we need them too. God often uses them to show us what it genuinely means to never give up and for there to be ministry in the mess.
I’d rather sit with him in a jail cell, scared as I was, a thousand times over again than in church with someone who professes to have it all together but really isn’t living for Jesus. Let alone, think that they should actually go try to reach the lost and hurting outside the church walls. I experienced Jesus in that little concrete visiting booth two years ago more than I think I ever have in a nice, beautiful, clean, church building.
Without our 05*481, I wouldn’t know the value of not giving up. Who is your Rocky?
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
SO WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE?
= Are you tired of trying to keep everything “perfect”?
= Have you ever been surprised by who Jesus gives you to pour into?
= What are you going to do differently?
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