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A family member has recently come to live with me; he has spent the major part of twenty years in prison.
I was glad to offer a place of respite to him and I do understand the effects of long term incarceration upon the psyche of a human being.
I have years of engagement in prison ministry and have taught in prison facilities, so I knew in great part what to expect of the re-entry adjustments that are a necessary part of getting out of prison.
The entitlement attitude of most returning inmates is no surprise.
Despite what their crime was that sent them to prison they feel they have been robbed. I suppose that is true in that Satan comes to rob, to kill, and to destroy. They held hands with Satan in doing a law-breaking act, and they were robbed by their own agreement with the wrong they chose to do. But they cannot seem to comprehend that fact.
\"Depression sits on the Throne of Self-Pity.\" (Ramona Cook, 1986)
Self pity is not restricted to returning inmates. Anyone who indulges themselves a bath in the waters of remorse and finger pointing at society for their unhappiness find themselves in the employment biting the hand that feeds them, so to speak.
No amount of kindness extended will quench the demand they have for being indulged in their desires, not that the desires are wrong necessarily, just that there is never enough to fill the invisible hole in them.
I have given my family member the best room in the house. It is private and surrounded on three sides with windows that look into flowering and wooded areas. He has television and music, and books, a telephone, and movie cds, air conditioning and heat, food and water, and juice, and all he wants of it whenever he wants it, but the one thing I am not able to give is entertainment in the form of being allowed to look at every detail of the items in the stores for as long as he wishes when we go shopping. He thinks I should be willing to sit in the car and wait for him to enjoy himself until he is ready to return home.
What an attitude of entitlement!
When I disagree with him about his \"right\" to that activity he gets defensive and accuses me of being controlling and mean.
I have no set time for his going to bed or getting up from sleep. I assign him no activities; he does some yard work when he chooses to do so, and he does keep his own room clean. I do not direct anything about his daily activities but for the one thing I refuse him, the absorbance of my time at his will, he is angrily verbal.
Some descriptive terms come to my mind such as brat, unreasonable, controlling, infantile, mean-spirited, self-absorbed, UNAPPRECIATIVE.
And then, I think about me, and many other people that I know, and how we complain at God for our petty grievances when He is so generous and good to us.
\"Man chooses his own way and then accuses God for his misery.\"
We are all incarcerated in a sense of the word. We don\'t have control of all things as we wish we did and as our human nature dictates. We are limited to what we can do to one degree or another. None of us has everything we want or feel that we are entitled to having. Instead of looking at the good and beautiful things God has provided for us without a charge, and without being appreciative to Him for the fact that He provides to us everything good, we tend to grumble and complain and magnify the something we aren\'t permitted at this time.
The good news is that God, in the form of Jesus experienced being sentenced to death so that He could, by God\'s Power, rise from the dead and give us release from this prison of human bondage and negative life-style thoughts and actions.
\"Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.\" Proverbs 4: 23
We incarcerate ourselves when we look at the impossibilities we know that are ours and then bemoan our insufficiencies. God did not make us self-sufficient, He made us able, but He is our sufficiency.
If you were me and your nephew was ranting about how selfish you are and that no-body likes you, and he doesn\'t like you when you have given your best, how would you feel?
I feel abused and falsely accused.
I think that God feels that way also when we don\'t appreciate the good things He has provided and all we can see is the thing He cannot indulge to us yet, because we are not ready for it.
My nephew is not yet ready to be given a car and allowed to go at his free will. He has missed a lot of culture change and needs also to learn to maneuver the traffic changes. He, like all returning inmates, needs to re-assimilate into the society they have been separated from for their length of incarceration.
It\'s about taking small steps and keeping a consistent equilibrium on a daily basis as the path to complete freedom unfolds.
For us, as God\'s people also, we must be patient with ourselves and others, as we learn how to walk in The Spirit and to not stumble. We must attend each other with assistance and encouragement, and sometimes rebuke.
\"Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage.\" (Richard Lovelace 1642)
My mother often quoted this saying and I did not as a child understand it: \"Two men in prison looked out through the bars, one saw mud and one saw stars.\" (Dale Carnegie from, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living 2004 Gallery Books)
Lord, give to me a grateful heart, and eyes to see Your Heart. Amen
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