September 19, 2010

And grace will lead me home.

Photo courtesy of the Times and Democrat.

It's been almost a week, and my mind keeps flashing back to a set of dark eyes.

In Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport Tuesday, I sat heeled legs crossed and bleary eyed waiting on the latte to kick in and thumbing through emails--standard Ashlyn-mode. Then a wheel chair pulls up next to me. I shot a glance up and then quickly back down to my Blackberry, wondering what in the world an attractive, seemingly healthy, young black guy would be in a wheel chair for...

Then it hit me like a pound of bricks.

I eyed his feet first. Big, nice Nike-shoed feet schackled in cuffs and linked to the sides of his metal wheeled chair. Rising up, I saw his strong wrists were similarly hand-cuffed and enslaved to the arm bars. Three broad-shouldered men in suits hovered over him in that tough-guy stance, you know the one with feet apart and hands clasped. He couldn't have been 20.


(So I promise I'd gotten to this point without any involved parties noticing my investigative skills. Curiosity may be the death of me, but I'm sneaky. Psshh--I'm a trained dancer and journalist: becoming concious of my surroundings is innate at this point.)

So there I sat. Next to a guy that had a blinking light over his head that said "Everyone, please stare at me. I did something so awful, your government doesn't even trust me to walk." I just had to look at him. Had to. So I glanced over and one moment later, the saddest, biggest pair of brown eyes looked into my own. My. Heart. Shattered.

There's no way I can ever put into words what his brown eyes said during the span we held each others eyes. I don't even know how long it was, or if I was breathing. I've just never seen hurt like that. His eyes bore into me: he was scared, alone, marred, shunned, stripped of dignity, and labeled a murderous monster by any travelers who dared to look at the spectacle. It was as if he was silently pleading my forgiveness. Anyone's forgiveness.

It's been 5 days and my mind won't let go.

Because we're all like that. We've all screwed up and somehow in our infantile, earthly minds his sin is "worse" than our sin. How DARE we call ourselves better than this man. How DARE we raise eyebrows and smugly go about life. I know I have an issue hating sin, it's something God is teaching me lately. I'm just more easily fascinated with Love and Grace and am an eternal optimist. I see and expect good in everyone. Trust me, it's an issue. I get hurt a lot this way. But I'm working on it.

But I saw myself in that man's--murder or whatever he was--eyes, like it was a mirror or something. We couldn't have looked more phsyically different. But at some point our differences stopped and we were one in the same. I'm just as filthy, shackled, and damaged. Maybe not in society's view, but in light of the Gospel, I am just like him. No better. Enslaved to that life, actually.

But then a Greater Love rescues me from those restraining chains.
And somehow, weirdly, becoming a servant to that Love morphs into freedom.
Which still bewilders me. I don't get it, God. At all. But I'm so, SO thankful.

"I'll stand with arms high and heart abandoned /
in awe of the One who gave it all."
- Hillsong United

Welp, looks like I'm still optimistically fascinated with the word "grace" after all. Now if only I could adopt a bit more of a realist streak...or even just look at the road when I drive and not the clouds and trees. Oh well.


  1. Enjoyed this post. It rings so true. I'm an adpi as well. Visit me @ A Big Little Life

  2. Loved this post Ashlyn! It really made me think about things...

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  4. So picture this: I was sitting at my brother's baseball tournament this afternoon, just enjoying the sunshine. I randomly decide to check my Google Reader and come across this post...and cry my eyes out. In front of everyone. Tears streaming down my face at the beautiful words that you wrote. Seriously, this is one of the best posts I've read in SUCH a long time. You have a wonderful way with words and really hit the nail on the head. Amazing Love!

  5. Ashlyn,
    That insight is far beyond your years, young lady. Better than that, you are admitting your feelings here. God and others appreciate that. We are all children of God, and so is the man you described in your post. Somewhere along the line, he didn't get the nurturing he needed like we did. That is NO excuse for what he has done, but he is human. We will never fully understand in this life.
    Thank you for leaving such a nice comment on my blog today. If you hadn't, I would have missed this post because I have been so busy in class. I am adding you to my blog roll so that that will not happen again.
    Keep up the great work!
    In Him,

  6. I just found your blog though Rachel's, and she was not exaggerating when she said this was the best blog post ever. I got teary-eyed reading it . . .

    I taught in prisons for several years (started when I was 20 years old--I'm 29 now), and now I teach children whose parents are incarcerated. Prison reform and prison education are my life's passions. It's absolutely incredible how quick people are to judge those who have been convicted of a "crime" . . . what separates us from them? It is so sad that people don't even consider all the factors that lead to incarceration: poverty, racism, the way some people are brought up (in abuse and neglect). Makes my heart ache for the world.

    I am following you now and so much in awe of this post!

  7. Wow. Thank you for sharing this incredibly defining moment in your life. I too stand in awe of the God who is so much greater than we will ever know until we are drawn to our knees in view of his glory....

    I love that you've set out to "frolic the nation!" What fun!

  8. This is beyond beautiful!

    God is teaching me a similar lesson right now!

    I am so glad I stumbled across your blog. Your beautiful heart is all over these words!

  9. Beautiful...its really amazing when we strip off the attitudes of this world and replace them with the Lord's will.

  10. Its times like these that I live for. Not only to be reminded and fufilled with His grace, but to allow my heart and mind to be moved and changed forever by written word.

  11. I feel like God puts us in these situations to help us reflect on ourselves and make us even more grateful for the things like health and freedom that we so often take for granted.

    What a beautiful story, thanks for sharing!


    Your 200th follower!


  12. As damaged as he is, that's someone's child. And that makes him worthy of love even if it was in the form of a glance from a random stranger in an airport.

  13. I bet he got all that you were feeling in the look you gave him. Who knows, he may remember it always. :)


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