And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32

She stood barefoot and awe-struck, looking out across the ocean with the wide-eyed fascination and excitement you’d expect from one seeing the ocean for the very first time.  In fact, she was so excited that I don’t think she knew what to do first!  Should she just stand there for a moment to watch the waves coming ashore under a perfect blue, sunny sky?  Go to the water’s edge to feel the ocean waters and waves coming to greet her?  Or run right in and let the waves splash her?  Oh, the child-like awe and excitement  that spread across her face and shone in her eyes.  It was fun for those of us with her to watch her and share her excitement! 

Greater than sharing her joy and excitement was the privilege to be a part of this experience.  You see, I’m not talking about a child going to the ocean for the first time.  I’m talking about a dear woman we call Ms. Betty who was 46 years old and seeing the ocean for the first time.   This was an especially amazing experience for Ms. Betty because thought she’d never get the chance to travel from her native Charlotte area.  She didn’t think she’d ever get to see the outside world again – much less go to the ocean – because she spent most of her life in prison with a sentence that would keep her in prison for life. 

Can you imagine what it must have been like for Ms. Betty to stand there and feel the ocean’s breeze, hear the waves washing ashore right in front of her, feeling the cool soft texture of the sand under her feet, and looking out at a view so expanse that it went on forever? 

God was with her in this moment and she talked about what God said to her as she spent time taking in His marvelous creation.  Ms. Betty talks about God a lot.  She’s studied the Bible and earned three degrees while she was in prison.  She speaks with a depth of joy and spirituality that most of us aren’t capable of having because we haven’t lived as she’s lived.  You see, Ms. Betty didn’t just spend all those years in prison for a criminal act that she committed, but also because she took the blame for a serious crime committed by others.  It wasn’t until recently that, while on his death bed, one of the men confessed to what he’d done.  I assume that’s when she was granted an early release.

So Ms. Betty spent all that time in prison, away from her family and loved ones, living harsh realities with a sentence that would probably keep her there forever.  Yet she has a faithful and loving heart and must have lived with great hope because she earned those degrees with no assurance from the outside world that she’d ever get to use them.  Perhaps the greatest thing of all about Ms. Betty is that she’s such a beautiful and loving child of the Lord!  She worships and praises from such a deep part of her soul, and she shares HIm and shows Him to all who take the time to be with her.  Even if she doesn’t talk about the Lord, you can’t help but experience Him through her! 

Ms. Betty is one of the most amazing and inspirational women I’ve ever met.  I’ll never forget what a moment of joy and worship it was to be with her when she saw the ocean.  Praise be to God. 

Ms. Betty makes me think of two things from the Bible. 

1) JOHN 8:32  “…And you will know the truth, will set you free.”  

2) The story of Joseph becoming a slave and prisoner, yet keeping a righteous heart and being blessed and protected by God.  As such, He was able to be used by God to preserve God’s chosen Israelite people.  This found in Genesis chapters 37 – 50. 

Like Joseph, God is already using Ms. Betty in wonderful ways to reach out to those who meet her. 

And btw…I’d be remiss to close without telling you that not only did Ms. Betty get to see the ocean and splash around in it, she also got a bird’s eye view of the ocean when the women who took her to the retreat took her parasailing, too!   Woo Hoo, Miss Betty!