A young volunteer and I were driving up to Martin Hall Youth Detention Center where I was a volunteer chaplain. We were having a pretty deep discussion about life, purpose and the mystery of an elusive and sometimes hidden God.
He said he was looking for God and I said, "If you find him, tell him I'm looking for him too."
That night I found him in the arm of a young junkie.
Her name was Chelsea. She was 14, "almost 15" as young girls like to always say. She was as pretty as a puppy; kind of looked like Avril Lavigne without the toughness — until you looked at her little arms.
One arm was a mass of little black pin pricks — needle injection holes — she was a mainliner. On the other arm was a host of cuts, small little marks running up and down her soft little skin. she was a cutter.
That night I talked about Mark 5, the story about the demon man who lived in the grave yard and spent his time cutting himself self with stones, screaming at the moon and lived among the dead. I shared about a generation that were dead men walking, that had a legion of demons with names. I preached about how no one could shackle this generation, they were mad, in agony and full of rage. And I talked about how Jesus came to him and confronted his demons, named them and drove them out. We ended the night talking about being clothed in your right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus and then going to tell your friends, family and relatives about the good things God has done for you.
God was in the jail house.
I asked for those who wanted prayer, many raised their hands and so did Chelsea. After prayer I asked who wanted to talk one-on-one. Chelsea's hand jumped up. Her eyes were alive and face almost shining. I sat next to her. Her first words, "You almost made me cry with that prayer."
We talked, she shared, she wanted to pray but not after revealing she was from Spokane and had nowhere to go when she got out. Nowhere to go. What do you tell a girl that says that? I asked if I could pray for her and I did. I leaned as close as I could to a inmate and gently touched her shoulder and whispered prayers into a little girls ears. Prayers that I prayed to God had the power of creation at their beckon call. Prayers that I begged would draw heaven's attention to this little junkie.
When I stopped there were tears on the table. God have mercy, I wanted to hold that little child. I told her if I were your daddy right now I would hug you and hug you and hug you and hug you. Oh how I meant it with all the love of God found on this cursed planet.
I wanted to hold a child that had been raped by her own father from when she was 11 to 13 years old. I wanted to hold a junkie and pray that poison out of her little veins. I wanted to touch her arms and see those scars disappear.
Oh, how I wanted, but couldn't.
This event took place in May, 2004. Nine years later I'm still seeking to build a home, a community, a place for girls like Chelsea.
The graveyard is still full of the demonized. My belief in the power of God to confront, provoke and deliver has been deeply challenged by my pastoral journey in East Central but my compassion for the emerging generation still messes with my disillusionment.
My prayer theses days is more a quiet mantra of Ephesians 6:13. "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm."
Keep standing for hope, for truth, for change, for love — for Chelsea.