“As I stand before the door to my freedom, I realize that if I do not leave my pain, anger and bitterness behind me, I will still be in prison.” ~ Nelson Mandela
I was only a prison chaplain for three years; however, in those three years, I had a lot of opportunities to meet men who were characterized as institutionalized. That is, they had become so acclimated to prison life that the thought of life outside the walls was frightening.
When some would be facing the possibility of parole, they would commit any number of infractions if not downright crimes in the prison so that they would have time added to their sentence. They could not see themselves shucking off their prison life and entering society once again.
Mandela was faced with that same dilemma. His fight against apartheid was all-consuming and he found himself on the opposite of the law. Ultimately, he was convicted of attempting to overthrow the state and was sentenced to life in prison. After some time, he was released.
Before his release, he had to determine what kind of person was going to emerge from the prison: a man consumed with hate for all that he had to endure or a man who had forgiven and who was going to try to effect change in a positive manner.
We all find ourselves imprisoned from time to time. Some are imprisoned by hatred, others by substances, and still others by fear or violence. In order to become a new person, we have to leave all that had imprisoned us behind and emerge as new people. There is risk involved as well as uncertainty.
One of the reasons we may have remained imprisoned, truth be told, was because that which imprisoned us was at least predictable. When we leave all of that behind, we have to embrace an attitude of trust because the future is unpredictable. That can be very difficult.
The fact of the matter is this: we cannot move ahead until we leave some of the baggage of the past behind. Too many people carry around hurt and hate, fear and dread, Only when we make a conscious effort to let that go can we truly move on in our lives.
FAITH ACTION: Let go of any negative feelings that you have allowed to ensnare you so that God may fill you with His peace and love.