Oh How He Loves Us

The Day I Went To Prison

Melody Harstine
By Melody Harstine

Sunday, November 18, 2012 is a day I hope I never forget.

It was the day I went to prison. The Lane Murray Women’s Prison in Gatesville, Texas houses over 1,300 female inmates — just a fraction of the more than 10,000 inmates in prisons in the small town west of Waco. It is a maximum security prison, and for a day, I was on the inside of those razor-wired prison gates.

The lyrics featured in the video below is one of my very favorite songs. Anytime I’ve had a chance over the last 5 years, I’ve sung this song as a lullaby to my sweet nieces.

On Nov. 18, I was BLESSED to hear a beautiful chorus of prison inmates singing the words to this song with everything in their being. And I lost it.

To stand there and hear 200 prison inmates singing, “Oh how He loves us so” at the top of their lungs is forever seared in my memory. How could these women — society’s outcasts sing, He is jealous for me…and how great Your affections are for me”? These women are the forgotten in our culture, many of them locked behind bars for an entire lifetime. But as I stood there and looked at their faces, and into their eyes I saw mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers and friends. I saw smiles that could light an entire room, and I saw women praising the God of the universe with all of their heart, soul and strength.

Then it hit me: These women know far more than I about the love of our great God. “And we are His portion and He is our prize, Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes, If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.” They know what it is to desperately need grace and redemption — and they know what it is to receive that redemption, though they may not see freedom until they see our Maker’s face.

I was supposed to be ministering to these women, and they were ministering to me. Isn’t that often how God works? The funny thing is that I couldn’t talk to these women. I couldn’t hug them or shake their hands. As if we were limited by a language barrier, all I could do was look at them and smile. I made eye contact with every woman I could. In their eyes, I saw faith in a God who has not forgotten them. And I tried so hard to speak with my eyes that there are people who love them for who they are — no matter where they are or what they have done.

Though my prison may not be physical, I too am bound by chains. I am no better than they — still so desperately in need of grace and redemption. Someday all our chains — physical and spiritual — will be broken and I will be able to sing again with these women, my sisters in Christ, before the very presence of our great and awesome King. (Remember Hebrews 13:3; Matthew 25:36, 40)