I was startled awake by the sound of keys opening the heavy door.
My cellmate shot straight up.
“Breakfast!” she cried, and scrambled towards the female officer delivering our food.
I sat up and rubbed my eyes. I was astonished that I had actually fallen asleep, and immediately wished I knew for how long. It had to have been at least 6:00 a.m.
My cellmate eagerly handed me a box of orange juice and a tray of something that looked like eggs and hash browns. She waited at the door for her share.
“Thank you so much.”
I was immediately overcome with tenderness towards my new friend, who had served me first before serving herself.
I was extremely thirsty, so I lapped up the orange juice. I marveled at how much it did not taste like orange juice. I pushed the plastic spoon at the “eggs” and tried a bite, but was immediately repulsed.
I looked over at my cellmate, who was already finishing her last bite. She grunted and snorted as she chewed.
“Would you like mine? “ I asked, gently. “I’m not going to eat it.”
She pawed at and grabbed my tray. “Yes, thank you.”
More grunting and snorting ensued, and my roommate was asleep again.
I sat and stared at the wall, and listened to the footsteps. Back and forth, back and forth. Keys rattled.
Back and forth.
Another hour passed, and, finally, the footsteps stopped at my cell. I heard the keys turn in the lock. My heart leapt.
Finally, I’m getting out!
“Spencer. Follow me.”
I stood up, and unfolded my Prisoner’s Receipt. I didn’t know how I’d get home, but, worst case scenario, I’d call a cab. I just wanted to take a shower and get into bed.
I’m never taking my bed — or my freedom — for granted, ever again.
The officer guided me a few short steps down the hall. We stopped at a different cell. My heart sank as he unlocked the door.
“We’re going to hold you in here for now, “ he said. “We have to clean that other cell. Plus, you’ll be alone in here.”
I immediately missed my snoring cellmate.
But I don’t want to be alone! My heart screamed. Don’t leave me here!
“You’ll be out of here soon,” he said, and he shut the door and locked it behind him.
AUGHHHHHH!!! NOOOOO!!! Everyone keeps saying that, but no one is following through! I want out, I want out, I WANT OUT!
Dejected, I collapsed onto the bench. It felt even colder and harder than the last one.
My eyes scanned the room.
The floor plan of this cell was slightly different from the last, except that the camera was aimed straight at the toilet. I suddenly realized I had to go to the bathroom – badly — but I didn’t want to be on display for all to see.
Damn orange juice.
I debated for a while until I finally made the choice to make my bladder gladder. When you gotta go, you gotta go. I did so as quickly as possible, turning my face away from the camera.
It was definitely not my most shining, camera-ready moment.
And then, I sat on the bench. I waited. I sat. I held my head in my hands. I thought. I listened.
Back and forth. Back and forth.
Voices. Keys. Footsteps.
And, finally, I thought about what I had done. It’s true: jail is a great place for self-reflection; for rehabilitation.
I thought about the day that was ahead of me. I was supposed to be at work at 11:00 a.m. I had no idea what time it was, but I figured that tax preparation was probably not going to be on the agenda anymore. In fact, I’d probably get fired. I was supposed to babysit Joseph and Katie’s young daughters – girls that looked up to me – that evening.
I was also scheduled to lead worship at church on Sunday morning.
How would I babysit my pastor’s kids? How would I lead worship at church? ME? I was now a common criminal. I was a Christian Girl whose marriage had failed. I was alone. What’s more, I was alone in a jail cell. I was hurting. I was angry. I was desperately in need, and in pain. I was a girl who, admittedly, had been drinking too much lately. I made a choice – a mistake – and got caught.
How was I even worthy of anything anymore?
My mind drifted to the lyrics of one particular song I had selected to lead.
I need you, Jesus, to come to my rescue,
where else can I go?
I paused and held my breath, but they passed me by.
I closed my eyes as the tears began to fall. I collapsed my head in my hands and sobbed.
There’s no other name by which I am saved…
capture me with grace.
Grace. Grace. Grace. Oh, that word. It started to take on a whole new meaning. I thought about my husband. I had expended so much energy being angry with him for his choices and mistakes. In that moment, I humbly realized that I was no different than he. I was no different than my crackhead cellmate, either. My hard, holier-than-thou heart softened. I needed grace and forgiveness just as much as anyone else.
Through my tears, I forced myself to hum the melody of the song. And then, humming turned into singing. The acoustics in my cramped jail cell were quite astounding.
I need you, Jesus, to come to my rescue!
It felt good to sing.
Where else can I go? There’s no other name by which I am saved –
My voice got a little louder, a little stronger.
Capture me with grace.
CAPTURE ME WITH GRACE!
Won’t you capture me with GRACE?!
They stopped at my door.