That is a comment that I hear often from inmates. It speaks of a lack of focus, a lack of desire, a lack of purpose … No matter what the situation is we always – always have to make the best of the situation. This sounds like a person who has never had problems, never been restricted by circumstances. Just like the headline today – Everyday is the same… - that is not true, either.
One of my key comments to inmates is that you can make this time one of the most productive and powerful times of your life.
Sure, it sounds about as relevant to the inmate as the band playing on the stricken ship Titanic or offering a drowning man a glass of water! If you can get that through to them at the time, it can be a powerful release to their future. I have seen many who have literally changed their lives through a positive approach. They recognize their wrongdoing and put their efforts into not returning to the institutional life.
We minister to many different faiths – some with none at all outside of atheism or being humanistic. One example would be the supposed Christian who never went to chapel, but loved everyone he met and practised Buddhism meditation every morning for 2 hours… There is no pattern to that life, we can’t be a bit of everything. Where is he now? In another sentence at the end of a 30 year institutional life cycle with many broken promises. Broken promises to himself, no-one else.
We all have times in our lives when we need a reality check. Those times when it seems that nothing is going right. The sailor who sets out with great hopes to sail the world and finds himself in the middle of the ocean in the so called ‘doldrums’ (these are times when there is no wind, no movement in the ocean current and the stillness can last for days). Sound familiar? Some of us don’t feel energized to step up, we feel hopeless, without passion to press in. Very few people in life have never experienced those times.
In the bible, the prophet Jeremiah experienced some pretty traumatic experiences from the people who he spoke to. They abused him and rejected just about everything he said. It is of no consequence that he was proven right, the pain he went through was horrible. He wrote a little known book called Lamentations. The root of this word is to lament, defined as a passionate expression of grief and loss, mourning. That is what the inmate can feel at any part of their sentence.
However, like all situations there is release, there can be a feeling that things can change. In chapter 3 and verses 22-24 of Jeremiah’s lament, there is a remarkable truth which has sustained me and many, many people who I know and have ministered to...
22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends![a] His mercies never cease.
23 Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”
Like many others, I could write about the amazing truth of these verses for a long time and in great detail. However, if we can believe in a God who is love and that He created us for a purpose knowing that EVERYDAY has new and exciting revelations then the headline can be proven wrong. It will never be good for anyone to be alone and ignore the advice or direction or assistance from others. Mentors seem to be a new thing but we all need to trust someone to help us through. Someone who has nothing to gain from offering help, guidance other than to see the other person grow and become the person that God has made them. Call it finding a golden nugget which has laid beneath the surface for too long or the potential that has always been there but never got the chance to show it’s face.
I have no doubt that if anyone of us can decided to open our hearts and trust a guide or mentor then everyday can truly be new every morning. The situation will not look so bleak and hopeless but can open the door to freedom and a release which goes beyond the unlocking of the cell door. It has limitless potential which will only be unearthed with fresh purpose, fresh desires and a fresh approach to the next phase of our lives. The great thing is that it remains for ALL of us, no matter where we are or what our situation is.