I may be one of the few people who will say they are grateful for their time in prison. Now I’m not saying I enjoyed prison or want to go back, but I am saying that the time I spent in prison resulted in so many positive things in my life and the lives of those around me. I’ll list a few so you get an idea of what I’m talking about (and see that I’m not crazy). First, God helped me use the time to learn about discipline, integrity, honor and sacrifice. Before prison I was a selfish, self-centered, dishonest and focused on my own desires. In prison I was able to experience the discipline of daily prayer, scripture reading, working out, and studying various subjects. I practiced serving others and worked on sacrificing my own desires in an effort to help my family and those around me. I learned to turn down opportunities to gain comforts at the loss of my integrity. (Romans 12:1)
Secondly I learned how to be a better husband. This may seem odd, that I could improve my marriage from 500 miles away. But I read books like Sacred marriage and practiced LISTENING to my wife instead of demanding I be heard. I worked on encouraging her instead of tearing her down. I practiced being honest and on speaking in love. Ultimately, I came to understand that marriage is not just a contract between a husband and wife, but also one between husband, wife and God. That the only way I can serve my wife is to serve God, and the only way I can serve God is to serve my wife. (Ephesians 5:25)
Thirdly, I learned to love others and have compassion for those for whom I use to have contempt. Prison can take an angry person and make them even more bitter. A prejudice person and make them even more racist. I learned to look beyond race, culture and religion to see that we are all God’s creation and that we are to demonstrate the love that Christ showed on the cross. I learned to tell even those who wanted to do me harm that I loved them and that God loved them. You should have seen the looks I got:) But it worked and I was able to walk with my head high and my heart full of love (most of the time). (John 13:34-35)
Finally, I learned about humility and service. One of my jobs in prison was cleaning the bathroom for our building and another was wiping down the tables in the dining hall (chow hall). I came to understand that I am called to serve God in all that I do, even cleaning toilets. And that I am no better than any one else. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t always sing hymns and shout for joy as I was scrubbing the shower or wiping up nasty tables, but I did work to have a spirit of service and humility in my daily life. Something that was sorely lacking in my previous life. (Colossians 3:17)
My point here is that while prison is not something I wish on my worst enemy, it can be the opportunity we need to stop, reconsider who we are, and work to become the person God wants us to be.