“When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” Psalm 94:18-19 ESV
“The Prisoner’s Wife” has been rather quiet lately. I emailed her and asked her about that. I have been concerned over the ‘tone’ of her last couple of entries. While she never fails to mention that her strength (what strength she does have) comes from God, I am sure you all have noticed the struggle she faces.
Hers is not an easy road to travel. Of course, there are those who are pretty vocal about how much easier her road would be if she were to divorce her husband. It seems there are those who criticize her decisions and doubt her faith. She feels isolated and is surrounded by negativity, criticism, and doubt.
Diane’s husband, Chris, accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior before going to prison. There is not a fragment of doubt in my mind that his conversion is seen by many as being a ‘conversion of convenience.’ That is how we often view the awakening of individuals who only come to Christ after screwing up big time. Frequently, the ‘conversion’ is characterized as simply using God to try to make consequences for our actions less than they might be.
I have no doubt this happens, but who are we to judge the sincerity of someone else’s repentance and pleas to God for forgiveness? Diane loves her husband and believes he is sincere. His actions to date would indicate this is so. If they can each hold onto their faith in the face of what they have to deal with now, and will have to deal with for several years to come, God will bless them in profound ways. It takes patience, it takes perseverance, it takes…..well, it takes faith. And it takes standing up to those who would badger and bully them into denying that which they know in their heart is the right thing to do.
But how does one stand up to others when there are so many ‘others?’ Where does the ability come from to keep ‘looking up’ when so many are looking down on you and what they believe are your misguided choices?
Diane’s ability has come from God, but her silence speaks volumes to the negative pressures of the world in which she is forced to live as a result of the choices made by her husband.
As I have written many times, quite frequently, the ones who are truly punished and imprisoned in a world of unfair treatment and bleak prospects are the ones who are left behind in the ‘free’ world. Most people do not understand that incarceration can be one of the most freeing experiences on the planet, especially when one is incarcerated in federal prison in this country.
Of course the ‘freedom’ prison provides can be exercised in both positive, as well as negative, ways.
In my case, prison gave me the freedom to grow in my relationship with God, to search my heart for the root causes of my 40 year journey through sin and willful disobedience to Him, to develop an idea of how I could put my failures and negative experiences to use in a positive manner, and to prepare for a new life lived in a new way, with new purpose.
Obviously, prison also gives individuals the freedom to pursue criminal, anti-social, or racist enterprises and behaviors. The prison experience can be used to demonstrate that absolutely nothing has changed and the behavior of the individual in question will be the same, or worse, upon release as it was when they arrived.
In other words, prison is a lot like life on the outside. We can choose how to experience it.
There is a big, big difference, though. In prison, all outside influences, pressures, and worries, can easily be dismissed, forgotten, pushed out of our minds, and ignored. We are safe from harassment from bill collectors in there, we are safe from the day-to-day challenges of having enough money, having enough time, having enough hands, having enough patience.
In prison, we simply choose the outcome we desire, and then use the time we have to work towards that outcome.
Diane has chosen her outcome. That was the easy part. Unfortunately it gets constantly, irritatingly, and faith-shakingly complicated from that point forward. She faces new challenges to her faith, her intelligence, her confidence, and her happiness on a daily basis.
And for making the choice she has made, I admire her. My heart goes out to her and I wish I could offer something more tangible than the admonition to simply keep on trusting God. She is being obedient to God and sometimes obedience can be very inconvenient.
But seriously, that is all any of us can really ever do that has any meaning. And while sometimes it doesn’t seem to make sense, or do any good, a great and wonderful reward awaits those who always have their eyes on the Cross.
I encourage all of you to encourage Diane. She needs your support. She needs to hear your voices urge her on to a glorious finish to her race.
I pray for her, and for all who stay on the course God sets for them, rather than wavering and bowing to ‘conventional wisdom.’
God bless you all, and may the Giver of all life provide a special blessing to His daughter, Diane Shellhart.