For those of us that have an incarcerated loved one, this can be pretty complicated. We often have a poor understanding of how boundaries work, and that is very important. Because it is not trust if we are putting up with dangerous or illegal or just plain wrong things because we are too scared or too confused to have a value system of our own to be the foundation of a good life.
God knows this. From the Old Testament until today God has a fool-proof plan for establishing that basis. God started by giving us a conscience, then God gave us an outline of the main points (called the Ten Commandments), then God sent Jesus to give us access to a clean slate just for the asking, then the Spirit of God came to be our constant guide and mentor. That is powerful and important and reliable information that is the basis for a better life in the here and now. Even more importantly, it is how we build a trusting, growing, joyous friendship with God and God with us.
This is why this is important for us in dealing with our loved ones. The legal system is a mess. It seems often to mostly resemble the school in the movie and book Matilda but there is no magic available to remedy the problems. Jails and prisons are filled with untrustworthy people. Our loved ones have themselves behaved in untrustworthy ways in order to land in jail. They have seen us fail the trustworthiness quiz in our flawed, human lives. So they have as much trouble trusting everything as we have trusting them…all with good reason.
So it is crazy powerful when we limit our promises to them to what we can actually do…with God’s help. If we are wracked with fear, overwhelmed by our new normal, without hope, without faith and try to fake it…they know it and we know it and all the world feels like sinking sand. But when we trust God in our own lives, then we can grow in wisdom and knowledge and strength and walk that with our loved ones.
This is one exercise that benefits everyone as we learn: to not be manipulated and to not manipulate, to speak truth gently, to have ourselves balanced so we are steady when we offer a hand up and to be always encouraging in honest and helpful ways.
Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things and endures all things.
Corinthians 13:17 (CEB)