But for most of us, that is not just impractical, but actually rather horrid. You see, the bottom line is this: In this world the only people who avoid stress and reject anything that makes them unhappy are from my vantage point, really not happy at all.
When I avoid the challenges of traveling with those I love during difficult times I miss great joy in the pursuit of 'happiness and fun’. People who never accept the challenge of persevering through setbacks to achieve goals that so often bless others may be missing out on personal satisfaction that they can't even imagine in the midst of the challenges.
Let me be clear. I am a great believer in having boundaries and using those boundaries to take time to maintain healthy life choices and take time to restore and renew, even in the midst of challenges. But, honestly, is struggling such a bad thing?
One thing that my work in justice advocacy and jail/prison ministry volunteering has made clear to me is this: we ALL have challenges and sorrows. A crime is committed. Someone is injured or has lost property, or even has lost their life. Not only is that person affected, family, neighbors, family, coworkers, church family, even folks watching on TV feel less safe. Into this painful moment someone dialed 911 and asked law enforcement to help. The officers that show up may be battle weary veterans or rookies still trying to get in the groove. They may have answered dozens or even hundreds of calls with similar issues or this time may be new for everyone. EMTs may be called. Firefighters may be called. Folks might go to the ER or longer term medical help may be needed. Social workers might be needed. Children may be headed to foster care. Classrooms may be affected. Detectives will try to unravel what happened and build a case, if appropriate. The municipal courts or county/state courts will wade in if someone is charged bringing prosecutors, legal aid and private attorneys into the process. There may be a jury, although this is increasingly rare (94-97% of cases are plea-bargained before or after their sentence has been served). Then those who suffered the original crime are patted on the head and sent on their way to pick up the pieces as best they can, usually barred from even asking "Why?" after the conviction. A convicted person heads off to serve their sentence, often believing that if they admit culpability it will mean they lose face and lose the chance to appeal even if the issue is the balance between wrong committed and size of sentence. They go to a jail or prison (unless they were detained so long pre-trial that they equaled or exceeded the sentence) where the sentence if often not carried out. A "two year" sentence may lead to death, increased mental illness, rape or other things definitely not mentioned at sentencing. And for corrections officers who are expected to turn a blind eye to much that is deplorable, they too wind up being deeply wounded. At some point 95-97% of people who enter prison are returned to the free world, their families and their communities. Unfortunately, the "corrections" part of detention is most often a cruel joke because the recidivism rate tells us clearly that not a lot of "correcting" goes on. Many folks who find their way to recovery in prison do so with the help of an army of unpaid volunteers who have a deep commitment to the brokenhearted. So off to the free world, skipping back to what? More than 40,000 laws apply to people with a felony record that do not apply to those with enough money for more effective representation. They are often PTSD afflicted. In most places they can be freely discriminated against in jobs (even if the conviction has no relation to the job), housing, social services, even forbiding the restorative experiencing of volunteer -- again even when such efforts are in no way related to their crime. This not only makes building a productive life difficult for the person who has plead or been convicted of a crime difficult. It also makes a life of poverty much more likely for their children, and aged parents.
Which brings us to this fact: Every person along the spectrum from crime through punishment and return to the free world, has a family that is also affected by what they have experienced, seen, dealt with professionally and personally. Each has been affected emotionally, physically, financially and, yes, spiritually because such challenges either draw us closer to God in our pain or leaves us trying to deal with all this on our own.
My point is this, each and every "crime" affects us ALL in the ever widening circles of pain and fear. Each silo of professionals along the legal spectrum see their own challenges, often with tender hearts for wounded coworkers whose broken spirits may be adding to the problem; they can be fearful of allowing the light of accountability and hope and new ideas in that offer hope for us all. But it takes great courage to advocate for change from within a broken system.
But God is bigger than this, for which I am deeply and profoundly grateful. Slowly, painfully, across the country and in every state there are courageous people who are standing up and advocating for justice that is just, justice that respects ALL who are wounded, justice that shines hope where people who have made mistakes, often terrible mistakes, can still become or return to being productive contributors to society. They are seeking better ways to restore a sense of safety, not because we have built higher walls, but because we have addressed wounds earlier, tended all with PTSD whether they are a "victim" or a professional, or even the person whose personal junk blew up in someone else's life in a way that the legal system became involved. There are even people working to make changes long before the legal system steps in by improving educational interventions, funding mental health support, offering supported recovery for victims of crime, being great foster parents and advocates for foster kids.
Unfortunately there are still folks for whatever reason, who keep defending the broken system, particularly the part they feel "in control of". They gain and keep power by playing on our fears and false assumptions.
However as the number of incarcerated folks climbs, and the number of folks who are detained but eventually released without being convicted of anything grows, and as more folks are becoming more distressed with the stunning number of times that they have to deal with dangerous and outrageous issues along the legal system spectrum, for themselves and for their families and friends, the inappropriate shame is being overpowered by a very strong sense that justice and fairness is sadly missing in ways that are making this a less safe world for us all.
Please join us Saturday, February 29, 2020 at DO Justice Like Jesus to pray for all the folks who are struggling specifically because they are trying to keep us safe, trying to be better people, trying to recover from wounds that need not be repeated. Come to hear from people who work to advocate for justice, to woo and mentor folks to embrace hope and to learn skills needed to lead more productive lives, and to tend the brokenhearted all long the legal system spectrum.
Remember those in prison and being mistreated, as if you were in prison with them and undergoing their torture yourselves. Hebrews 13:3 (CJB)
Use this link to learn about how your state helps poor and very poor folks recover from crime: http://www.nacvcb.org/index.asp?sid=6