After the Bible class had ended, I began gathering up my things to leave when the prison’s chaplain came out of his office. He motioned me over and asked in a hushed voice, “Would you be willing to talk to the inmate in my office? He just found out that his mother passed away and he’s asking to speak with a pastor.” “Sure,” I responded, and followed him back into his office.
One of the passages I like to share when visiting the institutionalized is Isaiah 2:3:
Are you feeling lonely? One of the emotions that chaplains encounter in all of the institutions they serve is loneliness. People living in institutions are cut off from family and friends. Loved ones often can’t visit them because they are behind doors that are locked. Some of these locked doors are physical while others are emotional. What’s more, being institutionalized means that you are no longer visible in the lives of others. You cannot attend family gatherings or take part in family traditions and special events. Neighbors no longer “bump into you” in the grocery store or see you walking down the street.
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7 (NIV)
Perry was sentenced to several years in jail. During his first year, he noticed how some Christian inmates had comfort and peace which he did not have. Wanting this same comfort and peace for himself, he picked up a Bible. Thinking it was just another book, he decided to skip to the end and just read the conclusion. So, in his quest for peace, Perry began reading the book of Revelation.
Sooner or later, in every discussion about eternal life, the question comes up: “Will we know each other in heaven?” The idea that God will turn us into angels or generic spiritual beings or something is an idea that just doesn’t seem to go away. Do we lose our identities when we get to heaven?