I am unsure sometimes what I am looking for when I am "discipling" someone. So many of the factors and spiritual growth indicators are so subjective. How can we tell if someone is becoming more Christlike? How do we know if they are becoming more patient, kind, merciful, long suffering, loving?
This is not a formula but I believe I recieved a small glimpse into a couple of people I have been "discipling".
Both messages I recieved were short and small. The first was a text message. The message read "I will miss prison too." This message was a response to a 22 year old girl who has been going into prison with me for the past few months. She is a student at IU and had been going to the extention in Northwest Indiana for the past semester. She is a small petite cross country runner. The first time she visited she broke down and cried as she shared with those incarcerated the story of the death of her father. She shared about how she felt that her dad was still mad at her.
This young girl had no business in the maximum security prison. She is dating a criminal justice major, and her other hobbies include playing organ at a Catholic church, and visting operas for her major which is operetic singing.
She isn't someone who would visit prisoners.
Yet when she willingly went into the prison and started interacting with the inmates. So when they asked what had happened to her I shared how she went away for college, they responded- we will miss her. The text message was her response.
I don't specifically know what she will miss, but I am guessing it is the interactions, the relationships, the different way that they look at life. The lessons that she shared about her faith.
I know that prison impacted this girl more than I will ever know and it was summed up in one short text.
The second conversation took place this morning in a cell house. I was grading tests for an earlier class I taught when a man who I had in a previous class came in. He said "Ben can you read something I wrote. I want your opinion on it." Men in prison many times try to pitch ideas or something that will help them in the sight of the justice system so I was expecting one of those two scenerios on the paper in front me. No this was a letter. This was a letter addressed to a family, and it is started out with the words "I don't think you ever thought you would hear from me." It was a letter written to the family of the man he had killed. It was a letter written with humility, and strength that can only be found in his faith in Jesus.
After reading it I looked at him and said "are you ready for what may come of this?" He responded "yes, it is time. I have felt convicted for some time to write this, and I have spent the last few months writing this." "I am not expecting a miracle or even a happy outcome, but I will follow God's leading."
I don't exactly how to quantify a young college girl befriending and sharing her faith with men without hope, or a man who murdered another man and expressing remorse. I think I got to see today two small glimpses into people who are growing in their faith. I don't think either of these are prescriptive but rather outpourings of what is going on in the souls of these people.