I have written before about my involvement in the Kairos prison ministry program. This past weekend, our team from Northern Virginia spent two days at Greensville Correctional Center in southeastern Virginia. In the prison’s gym where we met was a small sign that read: “Your current circumstance is not your conclusion. Your best days are ahead.”
I thought about those words during our weekend with the 70 inmates who participated in our “2-Day,” a refresher course of sorts to recharge batteries and strengthen faith.
It is pretty obvious in prison what your physical circumstances are. You are behind bars, and your every move is monitored and regulated. From the daily “counts” to the times when you can go to chow, leave your cell or walk around the yard, your freedom is limited. But any inmate will tell you that these physical restrictions are the least of his worries.
When inmates open up about their problems, what’s likely to weigh most on their minds are the fears and concerns that burden any man—in prison or on the street. An aging mother who doesn’t have any one to take care of her, missed birthdays of sons and daughters, estranged wives who have stopped visiting, friends and relatives who no longer write, a younger brother who is running with the wrong crowd. There are feelings of anger, loneliness, sadness and regret. In short, the human condition is the human condition, whether you are living in luxury or confined to a small cell.
What impresses me the most each time I go into Greensville is the strength these men exhibit. Nowhere else have I encountered such unshakable faith. That faith, tempered by hardships and life experiences that most of us can’t even imagine, makes these men some of the most sublimely positive and joyful I have ever met.
That is the rub that always confounds and lifts me up: Men who should be weighed down and broken by their poor choices, hard luck and long sentences are instead rays of sunshine and hope.
These are men who know full well that “their circumstance is not their conclusion.” But I think they would beg to differ that their “best days are ahead.” A man who sat at my table over the weekend said he would not trade his prison faith journey for anything in this world. His best days are right now. Why? Because he is able to serve God in a ministry he believes in. And he is wise enough to understand that his faith makes him freer than most men on the other side of the barbed wire.
It’s so easy to complain about our circumstances: “Oh, if I could just be more successful, live in a nicer neighborhood, drive a faster car, lose a few pounds or maybe win the lottery!”
Don’t get me wrong, I believe we should always strive to improve ourselves and grow. But I also believe, as Wayne Dyer so aptly put it: “When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.”
In the dance of life, we should rejoice in each day that we are alive, in each breath that we are able to breathe. If we can live our days with purpose, who’s to say that they are not our best days?