Yesterday, as I have on several occasions, I visited a prison in Kentucky. I have been doing this now for almost two years. I have gotten to know some of the inmates reasonably well, also some of the guards and the prison chaplains.
Every time I go to visit the prison a thought keeps coming into my head; it just keeps percolating there, bubbling under the surface. I think I am ready to now share with you a part of that thought.
First off, I don’t want to diminish the harsh conditions an inmate endures while in prison, especially a maximum-security prison. Nor do I wish to sound overly sympathetic to the prisoners and dismiss the harm they have caused.
When I visit the prison I am often struck by the fact that the prisoners, in many ways, are much freer than some of us outside prison. True, they don’t have the freedom to come and go as they choose, set their own schedules, plan their own meals, worry about transportation, juggle busy schedules, balance checking accounts, fret over whether they will lose their job or house, stress out over commuting to and from work. The list could go on for quite some time.
While they are in prison they have other concerns to manage, mainly survival. Sometimes that survival is at the level of animals; frequently it is. The law of the jungle is very much the law of the land in prison. Yet the prisoners, those incarcerated, know where their boundaries are, they know where their prison is.
How many of us, as we go through our daily lives, have become prisoner to untold desires and obligations? How many of us have created for ourselves an invisible prison?
When we go through our day, how truly aware are we of the way we have imprisoned ourselves with invisible, but no less real, bars of confinement? How aware are we of our own confinement, the shackles we place upon ourselves, or allow to be placed upon us?
I am not saying that all of our obligations are bad, only how often do we consider the cost of those obligations, those stresses, those busy lives? Who is the prisoner in your life, where are the bars of your confinement?