“Now say ‘I am beautiful.'”

A halfhearted chorus echoed the bubbly African American female detention center chaplain as girls huddled around lunchroom tables in matching purple shirts and khaki pants, lips and ears pierced, with ebony skin and their dark hair decorated in cornrows. A girl who had just received Christ slouched in her seat with tears trickling down her eyes. It crushed my heart watching her, listening to her story as she related to us how her mom hadn’t visited her and she was afraid of her friend hurting herself. These girls were barely out of 9th grade and yet the pain etched into their beautiful faces echoed back at me. It was jarring to realize how sheltered I’ve been. To see their pain and to feel it in my soul as I hugged them and listened to them. Maybe they didn’t really understand what I was saying, but maybe all they needed was someone there to sit with them and show them love. How often am I content with the simplicity of someone’s arms around me? How often do I value my parents’ love? I never had to deal with the reality of their lives . Just realizing their insecurity and seeing myself reflected through it, broke my heart because I am seeing how Jesus sees me. He sees me as beautiful even though I don’t see it. He calls me out amidst this empty, dead world and says, “You are mine.”

I know it’s only the beginning of the story for many of these girls and despite the fact that we ministered to them for such a short while, I’m sure that their lives are full of feeling ugly and terrible and steeped in sin – no young person should have to deal with such a lack of affection, with such hopelessness.

My prayer and my hope is that Jesus will burst through the darkness. In the days ahead, that he would redeem back the time for these girls. I pray and hope that even in their darkest moments ahead that He would enter in and surround them with His love and mercy and grace, showing them His awesome power in a world that just continues to feed lies of how their only identity is found in a boy or in the emptiness of bitterness. Only He can do that. Only He can save.


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