Joyful Souls Arising is an after-care ministry for women who have been released from prison that meets in Waukesha. I got a chance to attend their group last night in preparation for speaking to them in the fall. Walking in, I realized I didn't know who the attendees were and who the mentors were. More than that, I realized I didn't care. For the first time, I could appreciate that God sees us all the same, equally covered by the blood of His Son. It wasn't my place to figure out who was who, but to love and serve them equally; that lack of knowledge brought a freedom in our interactions. I learned that the woman next to me played the clarinet in elementary school just like I did, and realized that none of us are that different after all. The thought "There but for the grace of God go I" crossed my mind.
Each Friday they have a different activity or speaker, and last night the children's choir director from a local church played the guitar and we sang worship songs, contemporary and traditional. Mind you, no one has ever asked me to sing on purpose before, but in a gathering of 15 or so people and one guitar, there is no place to hide. We made some serious joyful noise to the Lord, and it was beautiful. Worshiping Him together in this group gave me the holy goosebumps.
I'm excited to be part of their group again. The leader is creating an environment where they can learn to see themselves in a new way. They are learning how to interact with life and each other in a healthy way, and for some, how to just have fun. I never realized what a luxury just having a good time was. Last week they enjoyed a makeover night. Next week is assertiveness training from a licensed therapist because they've never learned to speak up for themselves; most of them don't see themselves as worth speaking up for.
On some level I think that is something we can all relate to. God sees us as His new creation in Christ, like beautiful butterflies, and we continue to look in the mirror and see the caterpillar. This after-care group is like a cocoon, a place of safety and growth, some getting to know Jesus as savior for the first time, and some getting to know themselves through His eyes. It is my prayer for these women, and all of us, that we will learn to see ourselves through the eyes of the Lord, holy, beautiful, and complete in Him.