What were the best days of your life? Notice I said ‘were.’ We should all be looking for the best days are still to come. Here are some guidelines -
Your Wedding day?
- Perhaps you never married or a divorce spoiled the image.
The birth of your first child?
- but what if you don’t want children or are unable?
Getting THE ideal Job?
- Are you still living with the enjoyment?
Winning the Lottery? - Is life all about money?
Graduating or gaining a degree? - What if you didn’t go past grade 12?
Owning the house you never thought you would live in….
…we could go on and on about vacations, countries visited, the boat, the car, the promotion.
In my own life, I could definitely say that meeting Judy 42 years ago has turned out to be the best day that started the best days of my life. 3 great children, 2 brilliant grandchildren, settled and accepted in another country… But, I can truly say the best day led me into the best and most fulfilling YEARS of my life. October 26th, 1986, the day I met my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The day I knew that He was real and that I truly was forgiven which led me onto a life of freedom and not having to concern myself over past failings and mistakes.
We meet inmates all the time, who are full of regrets and they can refer to times when they were free - in all senses of the word - recounting the good times. I’m sorry if this sounds harsh but I have to get them out of that train of thought and back into the real world. No, not looking at four walls all day or thinking what they should or could have had. No, what are we planning to do about it? What’s your plan, I ask.
Invariably, it relates around going back to the same place, same people, same circumstances. All of which could have the SAME effects on their future growth. Tough Love is a principle that we need to operate in, if we are to get them back on the right track. The track that really will lead to the freedom that I and millions by millions of believers can experience.
When I say that day in 1986, led to the best years of my life, what I mean is that once you learn that Jesus is all about loving and treating your neighbour as yourself with forgiveness and mercy towards others, it helps to bring hope and joy. Christians should know that we are in a wonderful position of bringing favour - good, healthy, positive input into the people we meet. The problem we have with the inmates is trying to convince them that the best days start where they are TODAY. That goes for any individual but more if you are able to see those days during a 2, 3, 5 year sentence.
I mentioned forgiveness and mercy. These are 2 keys aspects of ministering to inmates. We forgive their actions because Christ forgave us and it is important not to show any judgement against them. This follows straight into showing mercy. If there is one area of argument that arises when I speak about showing mercy is that others say that they do not deserve anything and should be left to rot in their own guilt and stupidity. Sure, that is one thought…
If you were in need of understanding and support due to a mistaken identity or the appearance of something that you had done wrong - how would you feel, then? A very good Christian man found himself accused by his company of fraud by using the Company Credit Card for his own use. After a number of excellent years of service, he was suspended. We met a number of times and what surprised him was that I was standing with him. Why wouldn’t I? Even if he was guilty, he had a family to support. The end of the story was that there was a mix up with the credit card numbers. They were close together and his simple outside purchase was somehow shown as a Company cost. The relief and thanks that he had - when everyone else abandoned him - was truly emotional and relieving. What would have happened if I, for one, didn’t stand with him?
What I will always say to inmates is that they should be prepared to make the time that they are locked away, their freedom denied the best that they can. The period of incarceration can be the best time of their lives! What? you must be crazy, don’t talk to me again are the replies. Well, they come back and ask how? The simplest answer is that they have been selfish and misguided in THEIR actions. Now is the time to give the Lord a try. When they do, miraculous things happen.
Relationships are renewed, life is brighter within the institution, more and more good news starts to open up. It’s called the favour of the Lord. He ensures that the positive changes we make are identified. It is not because of our external actions but through our heart change. We have been transformed into His kingdom where freedom, love, grace, forgiveness, joy, peace and many more great things make for the best days of our lives.