INCARCERATION…speaks of confinement of inmates inside a jail or prison. Internment is the imprisonment or confinement of people, commonly in large groups, without trial. The term is a specially used for the confinement of enemy citizens in wartime or of terrorism suspects. Either way, it is simply being ‘locked up’.
I have spent virtually parts of one day every week for the past 48 years in a prison, jail or juvenile detention center in and around Dallas, Texas. That amounts to about 200 days (6+ months) of temporary confinement for me. I’m still ‘serving time’, even at 80. Why—is because I took Matthew 25.40 seriously and God directed me to go and teach. ‘Assuredly, I say to you, “inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”’ Jesus went on to define some of the ‘least of these’. “I was in prison and you came to Me.” (vs. 25.36b) That’s what takes me back each week.
God brings growth
Not always do you see fruit, but that’s Jesus’ role anyway. I’m planting and watering: he’s giving the growth. But once in a while you just get your pants blessed off you. That’s an expression…O, well! In the current class of 30 dads at Hutchins one guy came up to me last week. Corey is a special student, all into the curriculum. Said he wanted to be a part of Abiding Fathers someway when he is released. I hope so. But what he said spoke loudly to me. “Bill, I’m not incarcerated, I’m in seminary.” He went on to say he made one bad mistake in life and God is using my time here for my good.
Is that not an incredible mindset? It made me think about myself and many of you. You may not be incarcerated in a prison, but your life circumstances may seem as though you are in confinement. Rather than Corey’s philosophy of—God is using your confining circumstances to train and bring about a more productive life in the future. A Psalm speaks to this. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you” (vs. 32.8,9). Don’t fight what you’re facing, but embrace it as God is building a person better equipped to serve him.
Stay the course
For some men, you see yourself being incarcerated in your role as a husband and dad. It’s restricting, confining! No, embrace it; listen to Corey. He has it right. His eyes are on the present opportunity to grow his future influence for Christ. Believe me when I say, your family and its dynamics, good or bad, are God’s crucible to mold you and shape you, while positively influencing your family, especially the next two generations.
Your children do not need you to do a ‘prison break’, but to stay the course. They usually lead to more time of incarceration. Perseverance is being developed, one of the several fruit of the Spirit. Probably the issue is lack of contentment with your circumstances. Maybe you feel you are being unjustly disciplined, like most inmates. You deserve better—the grass is greener kind of attitude. Paul, a prisoner several times, attempted to have God remove his ‘thorn’, only to hear God assure him that ‘My grace is sufficient’. His next reaction should be ours. It says it all!
“Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak then I am strong” (II Cor. 12.9b-10).
Don’t keep reflecting on your circumstances, but instead, reflect on God’s grace, as it is all-sufficient for you to not only endure, but prosper. ‘Prison breaks’ normally don’t turn out well, but God’s grace always does. Corey and Paul got it right! So can you.