Acts 16:25 (NKJV)
But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.
What is your vision of a prison? Most people have never been inside a real jail, so what do you think it looks like, smells like, and even feels like? That’s right, what does it feel like?
I recently attended a conference where questions like these were asked. I am always willing to talk about working in a prison, but it made me sit down and take an even closer look at the spiritual side I discovered. Confused? So am I at times, but let me try to explain.
I went to work in Corrections years ago. From the very first day you go through a set of double rolling gates that lock behind you. I mean a very loud audible clunk as it stops. Somewhere at the beginning your mind finally realizes that you still have to be let out.
Have you ever had claustrophobia? Have you felt that things were closing in around you that you couldn’t breathe? This is a little how a prison feels. Even as a staff member you can not stand next to the fence and the razor wire without that feeling of being closed in or trapped.
You get used to the fact that you’re inside, but there is also another presence that can be felt. Remember prisons are built for society to send men and women to serve a sentence for a crime they have been found guilty of. With the crimes ranging from mild to extremely severe there is no surprise that you can feel the negative energy.
Not sure what I’m talking about? With such a gathering of souls you can sense the darkness that surrounds you. I have encountered men who make you uneasy just by the way they look at or speak to you. Some it’s just how they are, but others it goes deeper than that like its part of their being. On some faces you see depressed looks of despair, while others just look lost or beaten.
One of the traps is that it is far too easy to read a case file and let it taint how you complete your duties. Those who work in corrections are there to do a job, not to judge or impose further sentence. However, we as human are inherently prone to let our beliefs or feelings affect how we act.
The whole environment from the way we speak and act toward each other is a world unto itself that is difficult to describe. At the beginning of my career I thought I was immune to all this inherent evil that lurked around every corner. However, it’s too easy to just give in and go along. Along with the language, along with the head games, and along with what is considered the norm.
It took me a long time to shake myself loose from this state of mind. The only way I was able to do it was with the strength of God. I finally had to abandon my hot and cold running relationship with Him and really come to Christ. I let loose of all my misgivings and fears to shake off all those layers that built up over the years.
This is when I really started to notice that there were men among the population that were a light to others. They lead bible studies, they were active in the chapel, and they spoke to others who had questions about God. They were not the pretenders that I was used to dealing with.
These men were an inspiration to others around them. They were able to remain steadfast in this dark world without wavering. They may still be in prison, but God has given them a sense of freedom that only he can provide.
I have changed the way I carry myself as to better emulate how Christ directed us to act toward each other. I still succumb to my human self when someone pushes that right button at the right time, but I have vastly improved.
There are people who have commented on the change and I get lots of remarks as to why am I so happy.
It’s almost funny how a positive upbeat person can make someone with a miserable attitude even more miserable. I have also noticed that there are many people around me both inside and outside the fence that have that same condemned look. It was further proof that anyone can exile themselves to their own prison no matter where they are at.
How about you? Have you ever placed yourself in a prison? Did you look to God for the key to unlock that door in front of you? Or are you still stuck behind those bars?
I am at the end of my corrections career and it has been interesting since I rededicated my life to Christ. It has allowed me to regain much of the peace I surrendered years ago and to look excitedly toward the future. I have been able to have a much more positive effect on many people around me and I welcome the opportunity to continue my journey for Him.
Remember no matter where you are or what your circumstances, call on Him for your comfort, your strength and especially your release. In two weeks I will post my poem I was lead to write titled, “Your Prison”.