The Day I Went to Prison

posted in: Faith, Holidays, Hope | 0

Entering a prison can be a foreboding experience. High fences. Barbed wire. Imposing walls. I was somewhat relieved when we checked in with the guard and went across the street to the low security prison camp where the inmates were predominantly non-violent offenders.

After sharing a short message (yes, it is possible for a preacher to give a short talk), I took some time to interact with the guys. By the end of the evening, I think that they had impacted me more than I had them.

There was the story of the successful insurance agent whose son died in a tragic accident while the father was in prison. If anything can make grief worse, it’s bearing our sorrows alone far from the comfort of our loved ones.

Then there was the former bank executive who lost his marriage and 15 years of freedom due to an unhealthy pursuit of wealth. He was intelligent enough to do almost anything in life, but—at least for a period—lacked the wisdom to keep money in its proper place.

Each man had a story—none of them pleasant, but all tinged with hope. At the end of the evening, when I walked out the prison doors, freedom felt pretty good. And though my heart was torn for the men I had just bonded with, I was also thankful to see the way that God was impacting their lives and also using them to impact others.

If you can get any sense of the thankfulness I felt on the day I went to prison, you understand at least a little about grace. As I mentioned in my last post, grace can be an expression of gratitude, thanksgiving, or praise.

 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16 (NASB)

Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29 (NASB).

In both of these passages, the original Greek word for grace, charis, is translated to mean a sense of thankfulness or gratitude. I find that to be significant.

Life on this earth can often be burdensome and exhausting. If we don’t develop a healthy means to cope with the weight, we will be spiritually and emotionally crushed. God’s answer to our need, in so many ways, is grace.

As we obey the commands of Scripture to cultivate a thankful attitude in the midst of our difficulties, God gives us the grace to handle the load. Suddenly, what seemed to be grievous and overwhelming becomes manageable. Better still, brilliant rays of hope begin to shine where darkness once reigned.

I learned a lot the day I went to prison. Every day I take a breath, I have much for which to give thanks.

photo credit: Leshaines123 via photopin cc