Prisoners teach me about patience


God, grant me patience. And I want it now!

Someone who knew me well gave me that little plaque which decorated my office wall many years ago. You’d think I might have improved by now, but after 80 years, I still struggle with impatience.

Patience is on my mind today, after spending an inordinate amount of time on the cases of two prisoners this week. Both are Christian men. Neither belongs in prison. Both have exhibited patience beyond human understanding. Today I can report one good outcome. Sadly, the other is questionable.

One guy has been in prison for 33 years. During this time he has worked with state and federal prosecutors to solve case after case. He has saved the State of Michigan millions of dollars, and that is no exaggeration. He possesses letters of commendation from personnel within the prison system, the Michigan State Police and the FBI. He never sought a deal. It just seemed right. If he became aware of filth and dirt, he wanted to help clean it up. And yet, the powers that be kept resisting his meritorious release from prison. He’s been praying for decades. This week it became apparent that his prayers may be getting answered. Finally. There’s light on the horizon.

Not so for the second guy. He’s been locked up for nearly 20 years for something he didn’t do. Despite his patience and the best efforts of the finest professionals, all avenues of appeal were exhausted and resulted in no success. It is so frustrating! So discouraging! He’s been praying for almost two decades. Those prayers haven’t been answered according to his desires so far. From a human standpoint, I don’t sense any indication that he’ll ever see freedom.

I cannot imagine the faith. I cannot imagine the patience to endure all of this. I cannot imagine the pain.

Henri Nowen says: “A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.” 

That’s an easy thing for you and me to say, when we’re not sitting behind bars with little or no hope for freedom.

I’m praying for my two friends today, and asking you to do the same. Unless we’ve worn their shoes, we have no idea how difficult their walk has been. And still is.

Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho: The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what we encounter.” 

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