The video wasn't what I expected, but they interviewed prisoners from Angola (in Louisiana). Each of the three featured men were facing life in prison without chance of parole or pardon (sorry, I don't think that's how they say it). Each had found faith within the prison walls. I was blown away by their use of the word 'freedom' to describe how they feel within their faith. These men, who spend 23 hours a day in a cell. These men who also spoke of being unable to use the restroom alone or chose when they turn off their lights at night. They feel free.
I share this to say that as the Lord teaches me and grows me this year I am struck by how we can be prisoners to our own lives. Do we experience freedom, even as we're allowed to come and go as we please? Do we appreciate the ability to take walks outside or to spend holidays with our loved ones?
Even more sobering for me perhaps was the realization of how our actions are paid for by the ones we love. As I read Piper Kerman's story and as I watched these men in Don't Waste Your Life I'm humbled by the fact that we all my mistakes. Perhaps mine haven't put me behind bars for life, but I've also been given the luxury of a good home life. The men in the video were all in the midst of life sentences that began when they were in their late teens. Who wasn't a bit of an idiot at 18? And how different would my life be if I were still paying the price of my 18 year old sins?
They spoke of their spouses, their parents, their own children and the profound affect their incarceration has had on those they cared for most. One man shared that he had always desired to be nothing like his own father, who had been incarcerated. Then he said, and here I am, absent from my own children's lives for being just that. He had turned into the man he loathed.
As a social worker by education the failures of our 'system' aren't lost on me. I'm not ready to break open the prison doors and free them all but I admit that I feel a sense of sadness when I think about how many people's lives are ended by one bad decision. One decision I recognize I'm not beyond making myself. By the grace of God, that has not been my life...but I recognize that as a sinner, saved only by His grace, it could have been.
When I consider what it looks like in my own life not to waste this time, this freedom, it grows my excitement for Haiti. For the chance to get my hands dirty loving on the Lord's children. Heavy on my heart this week are these thoughts:
Matthew 25:40 - 'The King will reply, ' I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me'.
'If you judge people, you have no time to love them.' - Mother Teresa
When I think about my purpose as a believer I truly believe it's to love others and that always brings me back to my favorite verse about love...where the Lord says in his word that love never fails.