During my many teachings at a jail ministry that I was once a part of, this one keeps coming to my mind. I taught this lesson to the ladies who were incarcerated, but it’s applicable to all of us. I remember going in there and starting my lesson off as follows: “Ladies, tonight I want to talk about war.” I had nothing but blank stares, but I proceeded. “Not the gulf war or the political war (it was during the election season), but the war that’s going on in your mind. I want to talk about the battlefield that lies right here,” I said, tapping my finger into the side of my temple.
Now, I had everyone’s attention. My audience was desperate. They wanted answers and solutions to their problems. I, more than anyone, wanted to give it to them.
I came prepared to share my objectives. Those being: to get these women to think about what they were thinking about, to change how they thought and to alleviate any fear-based stories their mind made up.
I started with a well-known scripture: As a man thinketh in his own heart, so is he. I asked all those ladies to take a moment to really think about what they thought about.
I unleashed, without shame or remorse, “Before Christ, I thought and was a beer-drinking, boy-crazed drunk who was looking for a good time. I smoked weed, and did a few other drugs. I slept around—with A LOT of freaking guys! I broke the law probably more times than y’all. My thoughts were dark, depressing, and full of a woe-is-me mentality. I had been dealt a crappy hand growing up. I thought poor, looked poor and acted poor…”
These prisoners were identifying with me through their nods, tears, and soft responses.
I continued, “After Christ, I felt freed from a deep emptiness that consumed me for so long. I became full, whole, and, more importantly, loved. My life changed, as did my thoughts. The world, as I knew it, transformed before my very eyes with me in a leading role. How could that be, you wonder?” I paused to look each woman in the eyes.
“Two words: Happiness and Gratefulness.”
So simple…could it even be true?
I kept going, “For all my life, I thought about all the bad stuff that happened, and suffered tremendously with my own actions. My thoughts were always me-focused. Why me? Poor me? I hate my life…and on and on I would go. But, once Christ entered the picture, I was moved by joy and gratefulness. Grateful that God could not only love someone like me, but that He would forgive someone like me—FOREVER!”
I asked the incarcerated women how many of them had thought about their destiny in the courtroom. How many of them saw their sentencing, their release, prison, or drug rehab? I then pleaded with them that instead of applying the worst-case scenario to their particular situation, to give thanks—for their attorneys, the judge, the prison guards, their supportive family members. I begged them to be happy and thankful in spite of their current situation.
What I said that day was different. I brought hope into what they thought was a hopeless situation.