The struggles of those in prison
(the normal human struggle though intensified)
Human beings are complicated. Our inner lives can often be messy, chaotic and can often be filled with inner conflict. Sometimes the conflict can comes from a place buried so deep that it may never be found out. Yet it must be dealt with. In fact we can even be unconscious of the affect we have on others, but for those on the receiving end, it is in plain sight. So growth towards humility/self-knowledge can be slow and painful.
While writing prisoners can be ‘iffy’ if proper boundaries are not kept, for there are some who only want to take advantage, yet there are more who are really seeking to better their lives and many who seek to deepen their lives in Christ. The struggles in prison are intense because of the environment, one in which they are forced into, which makes it harder to deal with. So sometimes their letters can be very real.
People can forget that those in prison who seek to center their live on Christ Jesus, or seek to find God the best way they can, really do need our prayers, for I believe that we are connected to everyone when we pray at a very deep and intimate level. As Christians we are part of the priesthood of the faithful, and prayer for others is perhaps one of the most important aspects of that.
Below is a letter that I wrote to a prisoner who asks me a lot of questions, some of the very personal but very human. I would like to share the letter. Why? Well so that others will remember to pray for them. Also, maybe some one person may want to write a prisoner as well…..though again, discernment is needed.
The subject matter is adult at one point, so if you need to understand that before you start reading. I find it hard to write sometimes, because those who really want to live a different kind of life in prison can be at a disadvantage with others. I have deep respect for their courage.
I will call the prisoner Joe.
You ask a good question about sin and its effects. First of all, if you think more globally, at our own culture for instances, or even in your own environment, you can see the effects of sin. How we treat ourselves for instance. We as humans can often take on habits that are self destructive. Some of the major addictions come to mind. Then there are the more acceptable addictions, like with food, or work, or the desire to control others. Sin is self wounding as well as wounding to others. These wounds can lead to a type of death bringing on bitterness, hatred as well as despair.
There is personal sin, as well as bondage that have it roots in how we were treated in the past. Sexual abuse for instance, can lead for the one abused, to become so wounded by the experience that their lives can become chaotic and self destructive. There is also emotional abuse which can be just as destructive as sexual abuse for the victim, who also passes it on to his or her children.
When we commit personal sin, we are seeking really to escape the pain of life. However sin never leads to what is promised. It cannot fulfill us, or if it does, not for long. So when we start off on a way of life that is dedicated to running away from our inner chaos and pain, it can soon become a compulsion and then we are chained to a way of life we have little control over….though we can fool ourselves otherwise.
God does not punish family members for anyone’s sins. However when someone whose life is not based on love of others as well as self, then when they sin against another in whatever way, it does wound and it does ripple out to others. There are family problems that can be passed on from generation to generation. However when one seeks God and tries to love God and neighbor, and lives it out, then family cycles of chaos and destruction can be stopped, or lessened, at least in the life the one who dies to a ways of life that lead nowhere.
In the 12 step program it shows what must be done in order to get ones life back on track. Conversion is a turning away from one love to another one. To turn towards God means a death to all that leads us away from God as well as what harms others. Yet God is so merciful that when we fail, sin, even in the worst way, mercy and forgiveness are given freely to all who ask. We are then called to forgive and love others.
God is not too be feared in the way that word is used nowadays. We need to fear what we can make ourselves into. We need to fear in the way it is meant in the scriptures, of losing that which is what we are called to. God calls us to loving relationship, to look to Him and not to ourselves, to trust in His mercy and compassion. It is not that complicated, though it takes self-knowledge, humility and patience to grow into becoming a man of God. In the end it is grace that allows this to happen….
Your second question about chaste relationships between homosexuals, about it being sinful….well no of course not. If they are chaste then it is friendship that is all. Your friend if he loves a straight man but does not ‘use’ him, or try to seduce him, then it is a good thing and will help him to grow in his ability to have healthy relationships. In prison I am sure that sexuality can be confusing for many of the men there, no matter their sexual orientation. He is lucky to have such a friendship.
All things work out for the good of those who love God/Christ. Men tend to want to express love with their genitals, yet when this happens, then the relationship become short circuited, that becomes the relationship. They become triggers for one another. In the end this can become even more painful and frustrating. True friendship heals because it leads to expressing love in manner that is respectful of the other party and does not wish to harm in anyway.
Hope this helped a little bit. Just look to Christ my friend in all things, knowing that God’s love is eternal and absolute. The more that is understood, the more you and others will want to give, instead of use and take. For all of our longings are fulfilled in the love of God. Though the path can be difficult, this serving and seeking God…….so the other path can be even more frustrating and difficult.
You and those there are always in my prayers. Tell your friend to keep on track and pray that the Lord will teach him to learn to truly love. I know it must be difficult for him
In the love and peace of Christ Jesus