Half of the eleven men in our small group have family members in jail. It was the first night we talked about it. The initial surprise of ordinary looking people having drug offence related contentions in their lives gave way to comprehension and compassion. Removed from dear ones by miles, and prison walls, we joined together in prayer and conversation to battle against being confounded by circumstance.
Addiction, crime, and consequence is the unholy trinity we sought to unseat as the elephant inside the room. Our group also includes a retired department of corrections officer and two prison/jail house ministers so perspective turned like a kaleidoscope as we shared stories of how we came to be in this position. Someone quoted, loosely, the verse about, “for such a time as this” as we grappled with what to do and how to feel.
The youngest of the group began a prayer, not just for the incarcerated and their family members, but also for the influencers of our children to be radically changed so the cycle of getting out of jail just to go back in would be broken. It was a new idea, a break through. The prospect of an ounce of prevention extending like pond rings across the surface of troubled water lifted us from a mood of resigned despair.
One doesn’t have to be a blues singer, or a country and western fan, to know that part of the appeal of drugs and alcohol is people looking for love in all the wrong places. (Thank you Eddie Murphy) A culture of connection, no matter how misguided, is going to over run an attitude of exclusion and ostracizing criticism. We talk about the church being a family but forget that the head of the table is reserved, by Christ, for sinners, prostitutes, drunkards, and tax collectors.
Church outreach programs get a lot of fanfare from the pulpit, but it is up to us to make sure they operate in gentleness, understanding, and inclusion. The least of these is the majority of our planet and the crucial element of His plan for our family is how we relate, one on one, to one another. The Kingdom of Peace and Reconciliation is in our folded, and extended hands.