It was a couple of weekends ago the band was playing at some prisons over on the Mainland. It is always very sobering returning back to the island and processing my emotions. I'm reminded of going to my wife's uncle's farm back on the prairies. It seemed every year Mel would be picking stones in some field on the farm. In my mind, I thought it one of those tedious jobs you do once and your done with it. Not so. It seems they are always there buried, but the frost of winter pushes them to the surface, exposed and ready to be picked yet again.
Processing my emotions from prison is like the analogy of stone picking. Experiences, memories, wounds and guilt always seemed to be unearthed in me. Had someone rolled the dice of fate a second time I could have easily been in a place like this. Living on the streets of London and Toronto at the age of 16 trying to survive I resorted to criminal acts. Stole food out of grocery stores to eat, stole and sold to pawn shops, ate and dashed in restaurants, slept on hallway floors of apartment buildings. It was a family situation of abuse and dysfunction that drove me to the streets. It doses not excuse what I did, but it was how I dealt with the reality at 16.
I was able to turn my life around. But what would have happened had I got caught ? Why didn't I get caught ? Was it luck, fate or something, or someone else?
So looking around the prison, see the faces of the inmates guilt percolates to the surface of my being. Guilty for what I did, and guilt because received no punishment for what I did. I've shared my story with the inmates. They are always encouraged by hope, and the imagination of redemption, that out of the brokenness of their lives...out of the rubble, good can still happen.
I had the opportunity to pray with ( S ), who has been in and out of detention centers and jails since the age of 12. He is serving a 20 year sentence for the murder of his drug business partner, and his girl friend. An absolutely horrible story of family abuse growing up, drug addiction, betrayal and violence. He's 25 years old, with 18 years left in his sentence.
I shut my eyes, and think...how do I find the words to even give a glimmer of hope into his life. My hand is on his shoulder, and the period of silence is long, so long it seems eternal. Lord, please give me something, a word. And out of the silence, I whisper one word, " hope." What do you hope for ( S )?
He hopes for the mending of relationships. That when he gets out his parents, and brother and sister would somehow be a part of his life. He hopes he'll be a better person. He hopes he'll be able to beat his addiction issues. He hopes he'll be able to manage his anger. He hopes he could be loved by anyone. I tell ( S ) there is a God who hopes for exactly the same thing.
I tell him about Jesus story of the prodigal son. A young man who took his inheritance, packed his bags and headed off to live life on his own accord. Headed for the big city lights, spent everything he had, wasted it on the " high " life. With everything gone, penniless, homeless and living in abject poverty he finds himself picking through slop in a pig pen in order to survive. In the back of the young man's mind is one wish, that he could return to his father's house. He would beg for forgiveness, even if it was just as a servant.
But little did the young man know, that at the dawn of each morning the father would walk out to the end of the driveway, and look off to the horizon. Hope filled his heart, that he would see his son coming home.
One day the son decided he would return. So he left. Near naked, emaciated, hungry he staggered home. Then the Father at the end of the driveway saw his youngest son. He ran like a mad man obsessed with only one thing...his son. Before his son could utter a word, the father hugged and kissed him. He could not stop hugging and kissing him.
He told his servants to prepare a feast, for his son who was lost, but was know found.
There is hope for ( S ), in the brokenness of his life...even in prison there is hope. Jesus gave his life when we were sinners, when my life was a F'd up a mess, Jesus loved me. Grace is a constant reality of all Jesus is, God is Love. Grace is not dispensed with a measuring cup as to the goodness of your life. It is the cosmic reality of the redemptive imagination of Jesus. It, and he hold all life together. We awaken to the grace of Jesus, just a the prodigal son awoken to the mercy and grace of the father hugging and kissing him at the end of the driveway.
Even in the wreckage of dreams, when life seems dead and buried...when hope appears to have gone to hell. Through mercy, and grace, Jesus can resurrect life...even murders serving a life sentence.
if you have ever believed that love inevitably leads to betrayal
Jesus says it doesn’t.
if you have ever believed that some people are unlovable, irredeemable
Jesus says they aren’t.
if you have ever believed that there is a limit to forgiveness
Jesus says there isn’t.
if you have ever believed you aren’t worth saving
Jesus says you are.
if you have ever believed that you don’t deserve freedom
Jesus says you do.
if you have ever believed that fear, anger, hate and despair will always win
Jesus says it won’t.
( S ) you're in my prayers, the Father stands in the drive way looking off to the horizon...waiting for you to come home.