I visited a man in prison. It’s a remarkable and lengthy process to request and gain approval for a visit, and once the paperwork is done, the additional process of getting inside the facility on the day of the visit is also quite involved.  The layers of fences, each crowned in ominous razor wire, are intimidating, as are the metal detectors, pat-downs and intake questioning by a series of armed guards.

A Transformed Mind

This particular visit was quite moving, as the man, many years into a lengthy sentence, spoke of the transformation he had experienced while incarcerated.  He told of the anger and bitterness that caused him to commit his crimes, and initially set him on a destructive path in prison. But then, through the faithful input of some volunteers teaching faith-based and character classes, he came to realize something that led him to set all that anger and bitterness aside.

What did he realize?  That he was not a victim.  His spiral downward was because of choices he made, and he now resolved to own them, refusing to continue blaming anyone else.  That allowed him to be truly sorry for hurting others with his crimes.  More importantly, he is resolved to better himself, and had already taught himself a trade and a foreign language in his time behind bars.  What more could we hope than for an inmate to own his crime, be truly sorry for what he did, and use his time in prison to better himself?  I am praying that this man becomes an inspiring example of how the system can work when he reenters society after serving his time.

My Own Prison

The Bible teaches that all of us are “prisoners” in a sense, trapped in our sinful nature so that the good we want to do, we often don’t, and the things we know we shouldn’t, we often do anyway (Romans 7:15-24).  Each of us, like the inmate mentioned above, must come to the realization that we are not victims, even if we have been wronged by others along our way.  We must own the fact that we fall short of even our own standards, let alone God’s.  But there is hope for liberation from these virtual prisons in which we find ourselves.  The apostle Paul states it this way, and one can almost feel the frustration and anguish welling up from the depths of his soul before it resolves into his realization of freedom:

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25)

I know that anguish, and thankfully, know that liberation as well.  It is truly life-changing, and generates an excitement deep in my own soul.  It’s like the excitement I heard in a man’s voice as he talked of the life he is committed to lead when he is finally set free.