Prison Saved My Life
By Jody Griffin
Avery and Mitchell Counties
“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)
I admit that it still catches me off guard. The unexpected testimony of a man incarcerated for whatever offense led to his current circumstances is a surprise indeed. I’m referring specifically to that moment that I am an oft honored guest to share. It’s the truthful admission that for some…
“Prison saved my life.”
A younger offender reminded me recently of numerous other men I have been privileged to serve when he said those very words to me. His eyes brimming with tears he explained how 1. “Out of control” his life had become and how 2. “Drugs and alcohol had become his means to surviving each day”. These realities led to decisions that would alter the trajectory of his life.
But since he found himself removed from his environment and confined to the narrow parameters of incarceration, he has had time to think through the path he has traveled and realizes the opportunity that this sentence offers him. That is true wisdom.
Some who are contained within the walls will experience a spiritual awakening! Some will take advantage of educational opportunities and vocational classes that help them develop skills for employment when they are released. Some will do the hard work of recovery from addiction and some will invest time and energy in developing their relationships with their children (Father Accountability). Some will learn basic skills for living (Life Skills) such as personal finance, job interview training, and time management.
While this four-word declaration is not made by every person in prison, they are a repeated refrain of a percentage of the population. For these, who have chosen to accept the consequences of their criminal activity as an opportunity for personal growth, the boundaries of their sentence take on new meaning! For them time seems different. No longer are they focused on the length of their sentence as a burden! That same sentence has now become an opportunity! It’s not ‘how long I have to be here’ but ‘how little time I have to make the changes that will allow me to become a productive member of society who can make a positive impact on my family, my community and contribute to the good of all.’
That’s what the apostle Paul is referring to in these verses.
“Redeeming the time” is the choice one makes to take advantage of the opportunities to become positive, productive citizens. It’s such an important Truth to grasp: For just as Paul described the nature of the season in which he lived, served and would ultimately die, the days are evil.
It’s something like the former advertising slogan for the vegetable juice V8…’Redeeming the time’ is realizing what one has missed and thus making the conscious decision to miss it NO MORE! “Wow, I could have had a V8!” (Smack in the forehead!)
“Wow! I could have had peace in my heart and joy in my soul! If I had only understood that such was God’s Will for me!” (Smack in the heart!) Even in evil times, those who choose to live in God’s Will can know that as life challenges them, they can be restored!
Thanks, Be to God!
**The ministry of the Community Funded Chaplain is completely built upon the generous giving of churches, individuals and groups who take on the opportunity to minister to the incarcerated through the Chaplain’s presence within the institution. High Country Prison Ministry operates by faith that there are such people willing to give to sustain the Chaplain’s position and ministry activities throughout the year. Please prayerfully consider keeping this ministry going through a regular gift or a one-time donation. There are men and their families depending upon your faithful support. God Bless you for your faithfulness in serving and in giving!
Jody Griffin is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Spruce Pine and Community Funded Chaplain at Avery-Mitchell Correctional Institution.