Never once did I ever fathom the idea that the word “incarceration” would enter into the life of our family.
That was something that “other” families experienced. That was something that was foreign to me. That was something I read in novels. In the news. Saw on TV shows and in movies. It couldn’t possibly be something that would become a part of our everyday life.
How quickly life can change. How quickly sin can rob a family of a father, a mother, a sibling, a child. One day you are an intact family, the next—there is abandonment, chaos, and adjustment to the fact that someone you loved deeply is now going to spend their days in a cell. Separated from their family–rightfully so–because of crimes/sin that they have committed.
And they have a choice to make in that prison—especially those who are serving life sentences. They can’t choose what food to eat. They can’t choose when to go to bed or when to wake up. They can’t choose what job they are going to be assigned to, or who their “cellie” is going to be. But they do have the choice as to whether they are going to waste their life away in that prison cell, or not.
I watched a video today, produced by John Piper and Desiring God, titled “Don’t Waste Your Life Sentence”. I will add the video on down below. It’s a powerful video. An important one. It’s been available for over a year, I believe, but I wasn’t ready to watch it until today. Oh, I’ve thought over the months “I should watch that….” or “I’m curious as to what that video is about…”, but my soul wasn’t ready yet to watch it. Until today.
My soul wasn’t ready yet, because I hadn’t come to a place where I, myself, had made the decision to not waste my own life sentence.
You may be asking yourself now “What in the world does she mean by that?” Stay with me..I’ll try to explain.
There’s a certain sense in which a family who has a member incarcerated is in “prison” too. In many different ways—spiritually, emotionally, financially, even physically if they find themselves homeless or restricted in where they can live. It’s a very complicated existence. It’s not one that I can describe to you, not really, unless you’ve lived it yourself. Unless you’ve answered your children’s questions regarding their father. Unless you’ve watched your children be patted down in order to visit their father. Unless you’ve received envelopes in the mail stamped with the prison stamp that let’s you know the letter inside has been investigated.
And, quite honestly, it’s very easy to default to not doing anything. To allow joy to be robbed, to allow despair and depression to win, and to allow the days to wash over you, piling up one right after another–doing only what is absolutely necessary to provide for your family and to survive yourself. That’s why they call it survival mode. You live to survive the next day, then the next, then the next. And they pile up, just as if you were marking time in a prison cell yourself.
But you know what? We are all in some ways, given a life sentence. No, we may not be sitting in some cell, making jailhouse recipes (seriously, there are real recipes inmates create using food they hoard from their dinner trays). We may not be making hash marks on a wall with the one pencil we are allowed to own as we rack up the time we are serving for our crimes.
But we are living a life sentence. We see that clearly in Hebrews 9:27 which states: And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
Yes, this may sound morbid. For that I apologize. But it is truth—we are appointed to die once. We have one life on this earth as we know it, and after that comes judgement. We have a life sentence.
But, as you can see, verse 27 ends with a comma, which means there is more to this thought. Verse 28 goes on to finish the thought by reading: so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Yes, the first part may be morbid–depressing even, but it is truth. But so is the second part of the sentence. And that is where the hope comes in. Jesus Christ was offered as a sacrifice for our sins. And He is returning a second time……for those who eagerly await Him.
But what do we do in the mean time? What do we do if we die before Christ returns? What do we do with our lives?
I had to come to a place following my ex-husband’s arrest and incarceration–and the subsequent abandonment, doubts, fears, joblessness, depression and challenges for myself and my amazing children–where I had to examine my soul and make a decision. Was I going to waste my own “life sentence” here on this earth, or was I going to choose to live–to work to parent well, to make a decision that I wanted to be well and wanted to allow God to make me well (John 5:6), and to seek to glorify God and try to obey the things I feel He is calling me to do. I had to make the decision that I did not want to waste my life sentence here on earth. I don’t want to waste my life sentence here on earth.
Do I do this well? No, not at all. Not in the least. I am too full of pride, to ate up with self-pity, to easily robbed of joy. I fail, often. I waste entire minutes, hours, days, wallowing in self-centered, selfish pity instead of working hard to parent well, working hard to be obedient, working hard to comfort others with the comfort that I have been given. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
But I’m trying. And an amazing thing happens when I try. When I refuse to waste the moments that God has given me. Hope emerges. And an interesting thing about hope: Hope begets hope. And joy.
So, I leave you with this question tonight, or rather, this admonition. Don’t waste your life sentence. Evaluate what you are pursuing in your life. Or refusing to pursue. Matthew 16:26 states: For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
What will it profit us if we work hard to gain the whole world, yet forfeit our very soul when our appointed time to die comes? What will it profit our families if we work hard to gain the whole word, yet forfeit investing in their lives and leaving them a legacy that is steeped in obedient living? What will it profit us if we while away our life here on this earth, just marking time, while those around us are hurting and in deep need of the hope that we can give them through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Frankly, I’m tired of wasting my life sentence. This tired, hurting soul wants to be made well by her God. And she wants to be obedient to the things He has called her to do–to parent well (even in her many failures), to comfort others (even though she is guilty of not seeing real need at times) and to glorify God (even when it means being pushed outside of her selfish comfort zone)
I’m tired of wasting my life. I want to live. Not for this weary soul, but for the only person who has given me real hope: My God.