What is Your Jail? (Part One)

jail2It is very common to hear a criminal defendant say that he is no longer the same man he was before he ended up in custody.  I often hear that he has accepted Christ into his life now, and that as soon as he gets out of jail his life will be completely different.  Really?  This newfound proclamation that Christ has come into a person’s life and suddenly changed them can be difficult to believe.  “Hmmm . . . weren’t you here just last year saying the same thing?”  I guess I have to admit some skepticism (a common by-product of the job).

Most of the time I just let these comments come and go without much consideration.  It is a personal matter anyway, and I believe that one’s personal relationship with Christ is a sacred matter that is usually best kept private.  But a few times, something has rung true – this concept of jail, and finding Christ, and becoming humble, and reaching for something true and good, and seeking guidance and peace.  All of it runs together and lives really can be changed. 

When Alma was teaching the Zoramites he recognized that they had been brought to much lowliness of heart.  It was at this lowest point that they had become humble enough to truly recognize the spirit and the great love that Christ had for them.  When they had been “compelled to be humble” they finally became ready to accept what God was ready to give them.

My clients have generally been brought to this humbling place because of their own improper behavior.  When a person is put into jail, an emotional rendering takes place.  Reactions and expressions that were once part of daily life are no longer permitted.  Jail is hard and mean, and locked doors do not allow any easy escape.  Some of these individuals are hardened criminals that have no problem living in this unforgiving environment, but others do not belong there.  These are the ones that tug at my heart. 

Some of the people in jail are just everyday people who have made bad decisions, been arrested and find themselves in a new place that could never be called “home.”  All freedoms are taken away.   They are no longer allowed to make their own decisions; they are told when to eat, what to wear, where to stand, when to walk, when to stand still, when to talk, when to be quiet, etc.  They are brought as low as they have ever been.  Their agency has been severely compromised. 

These are the ones that deeply regret disappointing their families, and truly see that a change is required in their lives.  These individuals have been compelled to be humble, in the most humiliating manner possible, and they are ready for a change of heart.

            As I have thought about what it means to be locked up in jail, I have compared that to other situations that many of us find ourselves in – places where we feel like our agency has been taken away because we feel so locked in to our current life and the problems that surround us.

What is your jail?  Without actually being shackled and locked down in a cell with other inmates – have you experienced a situation that has brought you to much lowliness of heart, and desperation of soul?  Have you been brought to a place where it physically hurts because of emotional trauma or stress?

These circumstances cannot be numbered.  They are different for each of us.

Have you committed a crime?  Do you have an addiction?  Do you have children that have turned away from your love?  Has your spouse been unfaithful?  Have you been physically or mentally abused?  Have you lost someone you love to suicide or some other tragic event?  Do you suffer from a life-threatening disease, or do you love someone who does?  Have you been betrayed by a dear friend?  Have you lost your sense of who you are?  Has your heart been shattered, and your spirit brought low, and then have you, at that lowest point, felt the greatest humility you have ever experienced? 

Must each of us be compelled to be humble in some manner?  I believe the answer to that question is, definitely, yes. 

           

Advertisements

And she started using drugs at the age of seven

A defendant was recently sentenced to ten years in prison for her lengthy pattern of serious drug abuse and thefts.  This was not terribly unusual, however the following discourse was different, and it filled many in the court with pity and compassion.

Judge:               You understand that your bad choices have put you here.

Defendant:     Yes, your honor, I know.

Judge:               I’m sure your family is disappointed in you.

Defendant:     They are.

Judge:               How long have you been using drugs?

Defendant:     Since I was seven.

I have talked in a previous blog about the age of accountability.  Mormons believe that eight is the age when children have become aware of their choices and have sufficient self-control to make those choices.  But, what about this case?  Knowing the highly addictive nature of all drugs, when did this woman become accountable? 

The Bible speaks of a parent’s responsibility to teach children and to bring them up in the ways of light and goodness.  Because of the sin of the parents here, a child, now a grown woman, has borne a lifelong disease of darkness and bondage.  Can a child be guilty for the sin of the parents?

It seems to me that there were many stopping points along her way.  A neighbor?  A teacher?  A friend’s mom?  When should we step in and break a cycle such as this? 

Can we all commit to opening our eyes and being a little more aware of the people around us? Can we commit to an act of kindness that may make someone’s life a bit easier today?  I believe that we show our love for humanity by helping others along our way.  

You never know a life you may save.