Being an ex-offender and now one who works in Prison Ministry, I’m finding it hard to come up with a term to call someone like me. Creating terminology to describe a person with similar facts about their past is not easy. First, let us identify two things.
- I am responsible for my actions and it was deemed necessary for me to be incarcerated.
- I do claim Jesus as my LORD and Savior. I was baptized and now walk in newness of life according to what God has done and not of any merit of my own. Romans 6:4
If I am indeed walking in this newness of life; how then can I be identified in the unique needs, struggles, and strongholds with these two things being true? The need for this term is for us to identify the recipients and hold classes, workshops, and facilitate the extremely specific needs that the general public may not understand.
The label “Felon” is simply condemning.
The word “Parolee” is as if a millstone be hung around their necks.
Even the term “Ex-offender” may sound the least offensive (pun intended) but still is anchoring to the past.
When posing this question, I can tell it makes people uncomfortable. Here is a usual response I get.
“Well, all of us in some way are offenders, I just didn’t get caught. I’m no different than you.”
May I just be honest with you, I mean can we still be friends after this, can’t we? That is still offensive. This is the same as if I told an ex-marine from Afghanistan, “Well, I’ve been in a dust storm and I’ve been shot at once, I can relate.” We can just imagine the internal response of that soldier. (yes, you can pause here to contemplate that uncomfortable silence)
One of the first concepts that we learn in Barabbas Freedom is to be okay in silence. Our culture is noisy, fast paced, and pretty hectic. When there is silence, we have such a fast paced life we feel the silence needs to be filled. Sometimes we fill it with the wrong things. Sometimes we even fill that silence with our words. This goes deeper in meaning to reveal our hearts, rather than simply being politically correct. You are reading this blog for a reason. You or your loved one is or has suffered a great and powerful experience. Embrace the silence after their testimony. They have just trusted you in being vulnerable. Be okay with not knowing what to say. You may just give them the gift of being heard.
Do you know that we have the potential to give God that same gift? I can’t tell you how many times I have given Him my laundry list of “to do” things and not been okay with the silence. Just to hear His heart, would be a life moving thing. Do this daily and we just may receive more than daily bread.