One might think that a prison is the least likely place a person would find God, but, for me it has become a haven of hope.
Each week when I attend the prison bible study with Level I men, I am repeatedly struck by the sincerity, humility, awareness, and general appreciation that these men have of their lives, and of their journey with God.
Perhaps because I have been praying for a way to find a deeper faith, I have been hearing a medley of doubt run through my head. It is as though the closer I get to finding something very special, the more active in my life Satan has become!
The men I visit are encouraged merely by the volunteers’ presence. That isn’t enough to satisfy me, however. I feel so ill-equipped to be of any help to them! In my head, I am a person who has not had a loved one imprisoned, nor have I lived “on the edge.” I’ve always been law-abiding, gotten good grades in school, and had positive role models. How can I relate to men who have committed robbery, sexually abused another person, or gone back to prison time and again for driving under the influence?
Perhaps, though, I am the right person to be there – precisely because of my background. I know the way I grew up, the way it should have been for so many of these men. Maybe, just maybe, they will see in me something they never had, but want in their lives. Perhaps if there were more people to show them that they truly can turn their lives around, and to show them how to do it, we would have less folks who return time after time to prison.
I don’t mean to say that I know it all. I don’t. But I don’t see the crimes when I look at these men. I see men who have had very positive experiences with religion. I see men who are looking toward a future where they won’t be returning to this lifestyle. I see individuals who have thought a great deal about what they did, about what led them to doing it, and how they intend to change their lives so that they won’t return to prison. I see men who are trying to be better individuals, and men who are good examples. Some are so fired up to know God! Of those men, I am envious. When we face each other to sing, I look around at the many faces and I have to believe I actually see God. I see beautiful creations in whom God is working mightily. How could I not feel hope?
I feel hope for these men, that, when they leave, they will know better lives. I feel hope because THESE are the men I see being released from prison. I feel hope that they will be able to hold onto all that they have gained and use it for good. I even feel hope for me because, if Satan is working so hard to try to cause me to doubt myself – and God -then perhaps one of these days I will have that same glow many of these men have as they prepare to lead new lives…with Christ as their companion.