Every time I go with Tom to the jail, I notice something different that is only true of that particular place. For instance, a few weeks ago I noticed that the Anderson County jail has a very specific smell. We pulled into the parking lot, got out of the car and BAM... there it was: the smell. I had never really noticed it before that one day and even now I can’t really describe it, but it totally exists and is just part of the (I guess you could say) charm of that place. Today when we went I noticed something new... and it was sad.
Tom was going through his message for those guys and asked them, “How many of you brothers are married?” Out of the eighteen guys that showed up that day, four or five of them raised their hands and that’s when I saw it... That’s when I realized that none of those guys had on wedding rings. Their wedding rings had been confiscated at some point between their arrest and their having been placed in the cell block. Now, maybe for you this seems like a no-brainer, and sure, when I give it even a little thought, I realize that they couldn’t let guys keep any jewelry on their person, but it shocked me just the same.
I sat there as Tom talked, just thinking about these guys that I had come to know and care about, and how they had been forced to take off their wedding bands and put them in plastic bags marked with their names. I thought about how I would feel if I had to go there... if I had to go to jail. What if I had to take off my wedding band... the ring my girl gave me all those years ago? What if I had to feel it’s conspicuous absence all day long? The terrible thought expanded in my head... what if I didn’t have my wife? What if I didn’t get to see her smiling face at the end of the day or call her anytime I wanted? I began to miss her like crazy!
Then I remembered the words of Paul in Ephesians 5 when he got himself all wrapped up into thinking and talking about marriage and said this: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”
You see, marriage is just about the most awesome thing ever and one of the reasons it’s so awesome is that God designed it to be a picture of what He wants with all of us! The way a groom feels about his bride is the way God feels about you! The incredible and almost magical closeness shared by a loving husband and wife is what He wants with you! While I was sitting in the middle of the jail in that Bible Study, I thought to myself, what if I weren’t allowed to worship God with brothers and sisters in Christ? What if someone confiscated my Bible and took away all my praise music and my guitar? What if I weren’t allowed to meet together to pray along with others who love Him? What if someone ripped up my journal and didn’t allow me to talk to people about Jesus? What if someone took away all the outward signs of my relationship with Him? Would I miss Him? Would I long for fellowship and encouragement and hope from the Blessed Scriptures? You know it! Folks, we’re free! Nobody’s taken our ring away yet! We’re free to worship, free to love each other and free to enjoy Him... don’t take it for granted!