How exactly DO you change your thoughts to align with our Maker and trust Him exclusively? How DOES one acknowledge HIM in all ways in everyday terms? This is my challenge, and I have the time now to practice and train to get it right.
First of all, I know I have to train to do this as it is not something that comes naturally to me. After all, we are all sinners and want to be our own god, lord over our own lives. I cannot just try to do well, as to me that implies I attempt something, give it a shot, but try gives me an out if I might fail. It is so weak a word, has so many variables to the outcome that I know I must do better. If I train, then I know I can improve. It’s just like any sport I have participated in, practice makes progress as my wife liked to say. If you want to get better at any aspect of basketball, say, you practice it and train with the proper coaching to achieve success. You don’t try to get better, you train. Olympic athletes don’t just try to win a gold medal, they train. Doctors, lawyers anyone wanting to do a better job at anything must train in their various fields to improve, not merely try.
Also, with training, the idea of failure is viewed differently. Every time you do not reach your goal – don’t win the game, fail to medal in the Olympics, not save the person from drowning, whatever – you learn something that will serve you next time. When I only try and don’t succeed, the most common next step is to give up and do something else. Thank goodness Alexander Graham Bell did not simply try to make the telephone but trained so his mistakes would propel him further along the creative path to finally have success. Ditto Thomas Edison, who said “I didn’t fail 1000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1000 steps.”
So it is with following the Lord with all my heart. I cannot do it halfheartedly as I did before on the outside. I need to let Him be in control, then train to trust Him with my decision making. And how, pray tell do I do that? Exactly. Pray. The Bible tells us this life giving Spirit first gives life to our spirit (Romans 8 v10). Then from our spirit He spreads the divine life into our soul to transform us. This is why I go to all the Bible studies and read scripture on my own, to be transformed into that better being. I am training in each study, each service, not simply trying, just as if there is a prize at the end, which actually there is I believe: eternal life in Heaven with The Father.
As with any endeavor of training, it is a process, not an end. So I continue to train to be a better follower of Christ, to be more like Him. It seems I am often better at failing than at succeeding, but that is because the bar is now set so high. My thoughts are in need of control – take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”, says 2 Corinthians 10 v5. So obviously I have a great deal of work to do! As described in the book of Acts, I am equipped to do just that if I get out of the way and let Christ work in my life through His advocate, the Holy Spirit, which is given to us when we give our lives over to Him. What a blessing to have Him there whenever I need Him, and even when I don’t. So I find myself in constant training to make the necessary inside corrections and transform my life while inside corrections. It seems rather simple in a way but proves difficult often because of one’s surroundings.
In the program, one of the rules is no pornography. It is a simple rule that makes good sense since this is an intensive sex offender program, where other people, usually females but not always, are viewed as objects and not people. I have no problem following that and the other rules of the ISOP. Some do. In fact just this week a couple of guys were caught with pornography, Butt Man magazines to be exact. How they got them inside is still a mystery to me. Does the mail room allow such smut in here knowing the situation and programs run here, or are they oblivious and turn the other way after viewing them themselves, wink, wink, nod nod. Or are they complicit with getting them in here, as with the cornucopia of drugs floating around, any kind you want and can afford by the way? Not sure, but this I know: I was lost and now I’m found as the words from Amazing Grace tell us, and my eye is on the prize of eternity, not some magazine or other forms of pornography. I think of all that and cringe. After all, that is what started this whole downward spiral that ended up bringing me here. But the addiction reigns still in some and always will pull at the fringes I guess.
So I continue on this journey back to wholeness with the Lord’s help. It often feels, however, that I am on this trek alone and everyone else is just watching. A couple of guys in this program go to the same Bible studies I do which is helpful, but they don’t seem to carry it on back in the dorm all the time. So I crave all the support I can get as I know this is a life long journey that will have to continue on the outside.
Helping to that end it is a great joy when my older brother visits monthly and has coordinated with my wife to bring a food package when he comes. We are allowed two packages per month totaling 50 pounds, food, books whatever. (it used to be 70 but the CO union lobbied to lower it) His visit alone would be great, but then he tops it with real fruits, vegetables, whole wheat bread and more (and sometimes chocolate chip cookies!) from the outside. Such a blessing since the food in here is still repetitive, bland and overcooked. It is amazing what one can do with a microwave when pushed to it. We had a toaster oven, but when it broke they have not replaced it. His visits are even more touching because he does not drive, so his wife has to bring him the hour or so up to spend time with his penitent brother. As I said, it is a true blessing to have their support.
I have also found a great Saturday Christian study that meets twice a month. Seems Chuck Colson founded Prison Fellowship when he was incarcerated back in 1974 for Watergate related incidents I frankly do not remember. The program is run by inmates with an outside pastor coming in with one or two musical accompaniments. It is great to hear and be a part of the group which is designed to help inmates stay close to Christ and carry that relationship to the outside. There is a vast library of books on loan that you can take out till the next meeting, something I have started doing.
No trying here. I am in serious training on my new walk in a relationship with and following Jesus Christ.