This weekend the band is visiting a lower mainland prison. I still remember our first visit a couple years ago now. The anxiety, the apprehension...not out of fear, but more out of a place of disconnect. Playing the music is the easy part, there is a sense of distance between us and them...the music, the instrument are all things you can hide behind. But it is engaging with the inmates afterwards. What would I say?What would we talk about? Would we find some space for some deep conversation, that place where the Psalmist says...deep, calls to deep. Or would it just be superficial chatter, merely scratching the surface...skin deep.
So as we packed up, I met D. We had a chance to walk, and talk for a bit. D was just finishing up a 25 year sentence, I didn't have to ask what he did...the time for the crime sort of said it all. We talked about the usual stuff, life in the prison, sports, music...and family. Just before, it came time to leave...I asked D if I could pray for him. He said, yes. My only after thought was...I wish I knew what I was going pray for before I asked him.
There was this profound silence, as we as we sat there with my arm around him...it was deafening. In a sense it felt like a long time. It felt like that space, where there is a bit of static as a radio searches for a frequency. God...in my mind, I said...give me something to say. Nothing, more searching...more static...and then suddenly, with crystal clear clarity. One word...Hope.
D, I said, " What do you hope for?" He hoped he could reconnect with his family. He hoped he could mend broken relationships. He hoped he could avoid falling back into drugs and alcohol. He hoped he could manage his anger. He hoped he could find some meaning in his life.
I said, D...man, there is a God hoping, and praying for exactly the same thing...and he has never ever given up on you.
I told him about a Father that had two sons. How the young son had become fed up with life at home. He felt that somehow, and somewhere life must be better than here. He would ask his Father for his inheritance, and set off in search of this better life. So, he went and saw his father and asked for everything owed to him. He packed his bags, and headed down the driveway, off into the horizon...to a better life.
The better life, soon morphed into a life of self gratification, the pursuit of buying happiness, pleasing his body while his soul withered away like a raisin in the desert heat. He spent his money, on drugs, wine and women, gambling everything away until the better life vanished like a mirage...this ever green oasis one minute and gone the next.
He soon found himself homeless, penniless, starving...rooting through garbage bins, fighting for food with the rats, and alley cats. In his heart he longed for home. Even the thought of just going back, and being a servant for his father. He'd tell his father he screwed up bad, and ask for forgiveness. In the darkness of his soul, this faint glimmer of hope flickered, sometimes on the verge of almost being snuffed out.
One day at the lowest point yet, starving, emaciated down to skin and bones he decided he would go back home. So, he set off crawling, staggering, limping...he made his way home.
But little did he know...everyday, morning and evening his father would walk out to the end of the driveway gazing off to the horizon hoping to see his son coming home. The father's heart ached, he longed for his son's return.
Then it happened. One morning just as the sun was rising, the dawn of a new day, the father saw the silhouette of a person staggering towards him.
The father ran, like a mad man, crazy, filled with passionate love...he sang, he danced. He grabbed his son, embraced him...he kissed him, he could not stop kissing him. And all this, before the young broken son could utter a word asking for forgiveness. The father placed his robe on his naked son, and placed his ring on his finger. He called the servants to throw a feast in celebration in the return of his son.
D, I said...there is a God who hopes and prays for you. And, he's been standing at the end of the driveway waiting for your return. D, I said...do you think it's time to go home.
( my paraphrase of Luke 17: 11-24 )
So we head off to the mainland, and I clutch one thing close to my heart and soul...and that is hope. It is said that man can live for about 40 days with out food, about 3days with out water and about 8 minutes with out air...but only 1 second with out hope. It's our prayer, and through the profound mystery of the Spirit of God, that He will blow and rekindle any dying flickering flames of hope we come across.