Dear Lucy: My son just got out of prison. He made some really bad mistakes over and over and wouldn't listen to me. He ended up doing time. He is out now and it really seems like he has found the Lord. He is still embarrassed and talking about leaving town so we don't have to answer nosy people's questions. I'm embarrassed too but I want him to stay right here and learn to live a different way around his children and me. How do you get people to stop asking questions so we can just get on with life?
Dear MC: There are many more things to be concerned about for your son. What to say to nosy people is not quite at the top of the list and will pass soon enough. If you love him enough to still be embarrassed by his incarceration, you love him enough to help both of you hold your heads up high and move on to what really matters.
Who he has become is a bigger question than who he used to be. Who he has become will show up soon enough in what he does, how he carries himself, who he chooses as friends, how he gets and keeps work, how he treats you and his children, how he chooses to present himself as a man. No matter where he is, these will all tell the story. And actions definitely speak louder than words.
Making the transition from incarceration back to freedom has horrors, new realities and challenges that only he can meet. But since your question is about what to say to the nosy folk, here is something to think about.
I did a sermon recently titled, "Paying Attention and Divine Interruptions." I am a certified Fire Walking Instructor. Yes, that means I teach people how to walk on fire and not get burned. The first rule of Fire Walking is to Pay Attention! When you don't follow the rules, believe that you can walk and not get burned, and keep your eye on the end of the path and your expectancy of success, you can get burned. You also need to keep moving, keep going forward. When you feel yourself losing your focus, jump off the path; you can always start over.
Break any of these rules and you end up with blisters and a lot of pain. Walking the fire bed is a lot like life. When we break the rules and don't pay attention to the first little sting of a blister, we can end up burned and in a lot of pain. This is what happened to your son.
Sometimes folk think that they can take the heat, the pain, the blisters and just keep walking. Fortunately, the Lord knows better. And so we need something else to capture our attention. I call that something else "Divine Interruptions."
Divine Interruptions show up as prison time, whether it's in a cell with bars, a wheelchair, a hospital bed, a dialysis chair, a divorce court, a lost job, a foreclosure, the anger that went too far, the unplanned baby, death,...You get the drift. Divine Interruptions never come unannounced; we just aren't paying attention. In the Old Testament it's called "going into captivity" for not paying attention!
The answer to the nosy ones is that by God's Grace and with thanksgiving, your son had a Divine Interruption; end of story. The real story is in what he learned about paying attention during his interruption. No matter what he tells you, the answer is in what he has become as a result of Grace.
On a daily basis, you will both have to pay attention to whatever is really important or really matters. Divine Interruptions show up in everybody's life. They are opportunities to jump off the fire, regroup, learn some new ways of thinking and being that are more in line with Gods thinking.
Jeremiah 29:11-14 tells us that God's plan for us is always good and his expectations for us are always good. The problem is that our own expectations for ourselves are not always in line with God.
Who cares what nosy people think? Today, it would be a good idea to ask if you and your son can hold a corner of your mind open to the possibility of holding onto God's expectations of goodness, even on days that his feet get just a little bit scorched as he returns to so-called freedom. He can remember that he always has the option to jump off and start again and again...just do it before he gets the BIG interruption. We do that by Paying Attention!
Walking in the Spirit!
(For help with the feelings that get in the way of prayer and peace of mind, get Lucy's new book, "BE NOT ANXIOUS." Order it directly from her at 901-907-0260 or go to her web site www.heartworks4u.com.)