At first, I was going to whine a bit about feeling depleted of passion, energy, and persistence (PEP) lately…but then I heard two uplifting talks today that changed my focus.
This morning Joel Osteen talked about negativity drawing negativity. If you think of yourself as old, you will feel old. If you tell yourself that you did something stupid, you will feel stupid. If you think of yourself as poor, you will see the absence of the things you miss. If you feel that you are being taken advantage of, you’ll miss the good things, because all you will be able to see is the bad.
Similarly, today’s sermon at church was about grace. It was pointed out that when we are stressed, or annoyed, or impatient, life isn’t always rosy. But if we ask for grace to get us through the work day, the tolerance to be kind to an annoying person, or if we take time to think of somebody else’s needs before our own, we often come out of a situation far more satisfied, and maybe even a little happier.
Then my thoughts turned to prisoners. The angry ones do seem to see only the negative around them. Those who’ve accepted their fate have gotten past the anger and are trying to make the best of their lives. I have met some prisoners who take each day one day at a time. They appear to be much happier than their counterparts who are angry. They even seem to go out of their way to look for good things to do!
So, my thought for the week has evolved to this: how can I whine about not having enough PEP, when I have been blessed beyond measure? I need to step out of my pity party and get involved doing something for somebody else. What comes back when I give of myself reinvigorates that lagging passion and energy, and helps me want to keep at it, doing more of the same.
I have respect and admiration for men and women who are behind bars.
The prisoner lives in a confined environment, is thought of as less by much of society, and is treated as lowly and inferior much of the time…because, too often, that is the mentality…that he or she “deserves” the life (s)he has. Yes, indeed, I think it takes a very strong person to survive prison.
We all have insecurities. How often have you told yourself that you’re not good enough for something or someone? How many times have you looked in the mirror and not liked what you have seen? Can you imagine what it must be like to feel those kinds of feelings inwardly, and to also be told it by others on a daily basis? How greatly that must weigh a person down!
When you’re in prison, it seems to me that you’ve lost it all – job, family, friends, and self-respect. But, IF you can manage to pull yourself from that pit and not self-destruct, I think you then begin to rebuild. The prisoners I have met, either in person or on paper, seem to have learned to accept their fate. They seem to have come to a resolution about WHO they are now. And they seem to know where they are headed.
Just as with the mythic phoenix that rises from its ashes, they have realized their basest existence – and they have determined that there must be more. They have begun to accept themselves, along with their flaws. They have begun to see themselves as worthwhile, talented, beautiful, and strong. They are learning to see themselves as God has always seen them. They have begun to shine from within. Indeed, God does NOT make junk.
If you hadn’t made a particular decision, or chosen a certain path, how different would your life be now?
What was going on in your life when you made that decision? It has been said it is not until we are at our lowest that we recognize God’s hand at work.
When I have stopped long enough to reflect upon my own life-changing decisions, I have been stunned at how gently I’ve been led from one significant moment to another. The first time that comes to mind, was one at which I was indeed very low. Looking back, however, I can honestly say I was ultimately both replenished by the decision, and made to feel that, had I not made the first decision, I would not have been in the right place at the right time for the second, where I felt I was truly needed.
The third instance was a gentle tugging at my sleeve that lured me into doing prison ministry. Since that time, I have had a book of prayers for prisoners published, have provided shelter for a few moms who had little money but came to my area to see their children behind bars, and I have met some most wonderful people.
Somehow, I doubt that I would be at this same point in my life had I never nade that very first decision. Today I feel I’m still being gently led…to a place where I will continue to recognize God’s most amazing and intricate detail at work. I’m convinced my life is still a work in progress, and I sense that God isn’t finished with me yet.
Can you see God’s hand at work in your life? I challenge you to try. I am convinced the more you seek…the more you will find…and that you will see He has been there by your side – all along.