From my journal…
Incarceration is many things – it is hard to define in just a few thoughts, words, or sentences. Confinement…Prison…Solitary…Isolation…Cold, dark, lonely and full of despair. Damp. Suffocating. Painful. Reflective. Funny. Sad. Heavy. Overbearing. Full of Grace and Forgiveness and coupled with emotions and feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and despair just to same a few… It was also peaceful in an inexplicable able kind of way. That was my life for 17 months in 2015 – 2017.
A portion (almost 90 days) of my prison sentence was served in solitary confinement. There is a big difference between incarceration and prison and even a bigger difference between prison and solitary confinement. Unless you have experienced each, it is almost impossible to describe them to a degree that would make them understandable, let alone appreciated. Jail has nothing on prison and prison has nothing on solitary confinement.
Something usually happens to people who are held in that type of captivity and it is normally not at all positive. In fact, the United Nations considers any time of solitary confinement over 90 days to be torture. I consider myself lucky or blessed or a little bit of both that my experience was not all bad - - I mean it was bad but there was a positive outcome. There is something special about solitude and silence. There is a uniqueness of experiencing only the sound of your own voice for the vast majority of time. There is a presence that only being alone can explain. A connection. A spirituality that comes forth - - something powerful happens when God has your full attention - - He has you right where He needs you.
In Praise and worship of Him
Conversing… and in constant contact with the Father.
That is the plus of solitary confinement. I have never felt a more powerful presence of God in my life that in those 90 days of solitude and silence. I sang memorized hymns (I am not a singer), I sang the Psalms, I talked out loud to God all day long. I was close… I mean really close to God. I miss that. I want that. I need that.
Fast forward to this weekend and I felt that way for just a few hours at a church retreat. I have never been to a retreat that didn’t include forced imprisonment. 😊
I had the pleasure of staying in a simple room that was a former home of one of the Sisters of St. Joseph. A desk. A chair. A bed. Two lamps. One Crucifix above the bed and two pillows (that is huge because there are NO pillows in prison). Let me go back and remind you that there are no pillows in prison and that will be a Blog all it’s own soon.
What an amazingly simple room and yet it was all I needed, and I am certain was a great home for one of the former Sisters. I loved it. It was quiet. It was peaceful. As I prayed in that simple, quiet, and peaceful room on Friday night, I became so emotional and felt right next to God – I could only imagine how much steadfast and constant prayer happened in that room before my visit. It made me look back and wonder if that was the same thing that happened time and time again in the cells where I spent my solitary time…
The history of prayer and praise and of listening and discernment felt intense to me - - I could feel God and the Holy Spirit in that room. That is the closest I have felt to God since prison. I love that feeling.
Today, I feel restored, refreshed, and rejuvenated. The silence, the solitude, and the history of that room brought me back to my center - - to God.
Today, I am grateful for my prison sentence because it led me to the cross. Today, I am grateful for this retreat because it reminded how much I love being silent and close to the Lord.
Editorial Note: I will be accepting offers to attend retreats as I feel like my new career could be a professional retreater…😊
If you’re struggling, it’s okay help is only a prayer away.