By Debbie Olujobi
My aunt regularly raises a particular point in prayer and the first time I heard it, I was intrigued. She prays to God in a dialogue form and during one of such prayers she asked for blessings and gave thanks that God is not man; if He was she didn’t believe her prayers would be heard, after all man does little else than judge his fellow man. Blessings would undoubtedly pass most of us over if men were God. We would be judged and weighed and mercy may not count for much at all. I totally agreed; it takes a highly elevated mind to get off the seat of judgement and let mercy prevail. Judgement is the bane of humanity and it is often based on emotions that are irrational and illogical; where it is sound; it still fails to deliver any satisfaction, since no man is perfect. When we judge one, we judge all.
The love of my life has been Christ, motherhood and marriage count for much but Christ is it for me ( always has been). Its a love that I have come to rely on, trust and it is unrepentant and unchangeable. There is nothing like having the love that just wont quit; I cant disgust God, He just is always going to love me; He will only ever see the perfection he created; not the mess I sometimes feel like, or the failure my fellow men sometimes see.
Undoubtedly some will judge my musings as those of a lily livered individual who cant cope with reality and instead clings to a God she cannot see and I am absolutely cool with that. I am Lilly livered without Christ; with Him however, I have courage and His love strengthens and beautifies me. That love has offered me many chances at redemption and it is what makes me so passionate about second chances. I absolutely believe everyone deserves an opportunity at redemption and even a second or as many chances as they need to start again, to try again.
The process of growth is not without its hazards and you would be surprised at how quickly a life can unravel. I spend a bit of time with prisoners in the prison ministry and I once had a conversation with a warder that was very enlightening to say the least. She told me about her temper when she was younger. She couldn’t even recall the number of times she had beaten up people. She remembered beating one girl into an unconscious state and being totally unrepentant; she had threatened to kill the girl and was expelled for that misadventure. She believes being expelled was God giving her a second chance as she would undoubtedly have been in the prison as a prisoner. She said more than 30% of all inmates were there for crimes of passion; rage, jealousy, envy and sheer pig headedness!! Being in prison for some of the inmates is a second chance; its a chance for them to be separated from their prevailing reality and get a perspective on the consequences of their actions.
I find judgement depressing and isolating; it puts people in a box and whats more, it makes me a hypocrite. It took divine intervention and many years of counselling to contain my volcanic temper. I may not have beaten anyone to a stupor like my warder friend, but I had in the past felt murderous rage and I can only thank God I didn’t actually do anything that would have changed the course of life as I know it. I hold the opinion that no one was actually born bad or evil, I believe that time and chance happen to us all. What and who we are exposed to early on in life will shape what and who we eventually become, save for divine intervention and what some call genetic lottery anyone can be an inmate. The first thing you learn in prison ministry is never to ask about people’s crimes, not knowing eliminates fear and judgement. Convincing people to come on board is a hard sell and it’s understandable, prison is not a country club and most people think prisoners are a menace to society and deserve the punishment they are serving. I do believe that there must be consequences for actions that do damage to others and break the law but there must always be an opportunity for redemption and a second chance.
Last week I mentioned that I was passionate about prisoners and quite a lot of people didn’t understand or share my passion. Thats fine, as we all have different callings. What I want to encourage is open-mindedness, mercy, forgiveness. We all should get a second chance, no matter how far we fall from grace. In my personal life, I have fallen severally, getting up has been a blessing of mercy. As a matter of fact I still fall, just like everyone else.
The truth is most of us judge ourselves; we our own worst critics and since we don’t extend mercy to our selves how could we possible extend it to others? I believe that men judge, they even judge God; thats why they would deny their fellow men mercy, even when God makes it readily available. I have learnt to love myself, flaws and all over the years; I show myself mercy so its easy to extend it others. We all should do same. If you remember the story of the Good Samaritan, we would do well to note that help came from a stranger, who didn’t judge his situation but simply extended mercy. The ironic thing about mercy is that those who don’t extend it always expect it. Second chances are necessary, we all need it; its not just for prisoners, its for everyone. We all need to believe that we are better than our mistakes; that we can learn from them and be better for it.