As a beloved child, parent, sibling, spouse, or friend begins skirting criminal behaviors, slips over the fine line into addiction, begins interacting with legal systems, maybe first as a victim because of the places they frequent or the company they keep, and then because they begin justifying behaviors that are blatantly illegal, we council, badger, lecture, pray, plead with both the loved one and with God. We think with the first arrest that surely that will wake them up; then the first conviction; then the first incarceration, then the loss of loved ones and friends who drift away from the challenges of keeping in touch with some who is incarcerated.
For some that awakening comes, but if it does not come with a new or renewed relationship with God, the baggage of past mistakes can make a permanent change in direction wicked hard. I heartily thank God for every welcoming church, every mentor, every letter writer that offers wise counsel, for every program inside and outside that offers classes in parenting, money management, job skills, sometimes such basic job skills as understanding the need to be on time, not steal from an employer and to be tolerant and kind to customers, and for employers who believe in debts paid. But most of all I offer thanks that God meets us where we are, loves us, teaches us, heals us so that we can free ourselves from all within us that interferes with us living and loving as we were created to live and love.
For those of us on the outside, we do not have to wait for our child's release to be freed from fear, hopelessness and guilt. And the incarcerated do not have to wait until their release to live lives free of the shame and anger that has circumscribed their lives since long before the day the jail door swung shut.
Let us claim today all that God has to offer that we might be free to serve each other through love.
You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love. - Galatians 5:13 (CEB)