Yesterday I watched my friend led off in handcuffs bound for prison.
In those few moments that seemed to stretch out like a movie before me I blinked away tears so I could see him for every one of those last few seconds. I thought about how if I, his friend, felt such anguish in those moments, how much more must his beautiful, devoted wife’s tender heart ache. His parents, too frail to be present. His beloved children, looking on in horror. His sister, whose slender, trembling shoulders my arm instinctively encircled.
I saw it in his eyes, the pain of sadness, regret, fear of the unknown. I juggled a million thoughts ranging from gratitude for what could have been a harsher sentence, to anguish for what he and his family must be feeling, to anger at those whose heartless lies and groundless assumptions had twisted his sin into something far more sinister than it ever was.
I saw something else, too. I saw my own sin. And yours. He was all of us, his soft eyes pooled with the penalty of wrong choice, of a momentary theft of reason by the one who would see us all imprisoned for eternity.
But our God has another plan.
Our God has a plan for life over death, freedom over bondage, victory over the father of lies.
As hard as it was for me to watch my dear friend led away yesterday, I know His God—our God—has His eye on both the sparrow and my friend. And I know He already has a plan for redemption, not only for my friend but for those whose lives he will touch in these coming years. He’ll be Paul for a little while within those high walls, sharing the love and grace of the God who never forsakes, whose love never fails.
And we will all be right here, praying and sending courage and visiting often as we can, reminding one another that this pain won’t last.
The Enemy gets but a short season, and then comes God’s glory.
So we live for that assurance and we encourage one another and we pour it all out on this man we love who faces a mission field the Enemy meant for evil but God will use for good.
And we share with anyone who will listen how the grace that covers him covers us all. Because he is all of us, really, in our daily mistakes and pitfalls and poor choices.
May I live these moments of this life grateful for the grace that sees chains loosed and freedom bought with the blood of the One who did nothing wrong.
I will never forget the face of my friend yesterday in that courtroom. May I never forget to tell the story of the God who loved us enough to buy our freedom with the life of His only Son, in whose eyes pooled the penalty of the whole world’s sins at once.
This is our story, all of us prisoners set free.