Recently, I was conducting a small group meeting at a men’s “half-way” house of sorts. This is a place where men who are transitioning from trouble related to addiction can get their feet under them. It is an incredible facility of Hope and equipping where Light can take root in the hearts of men where darkness had prevailed.
Many of these men have spent time in prison, some more recently than others. Obviously, that experience and the experiences that led them to that point can shape their perspective. The challenge for many of them is to get beyond those things as indicators of their identity.
During the recent meeting I mentioned, one of the older men (who had spent significant time in prison) consistently referred to himself and the group generally as “convicts.” Just as I started to speak into that in order to re-direct the labeling to a more True and accurate label of identity, one of the younger guys in the group jumped in.
This younger guy, who had also spent time in prison, was visibly agitated at the consistent reference to him by association as a “convict.” He said to the older man, “I’m not a convict and I don’t want to be called a convict anymore so stop saying that.” Nice. Despite the facts (he had been convicted), he was trumpeting the Truth (what he had done isn’t who he is).
While it resulted in a slightly tense moment, the confrontation was critical in the hope of the younger man. He was declaring that his destiny was greater than his experience. His identity is not what others called him, but what he is called by the One that decided who he was by creating him in the first place. He shifted from the shame, doubt, guilt and crumbs of an orphan and began to receive that which was bought for him as a son.
It doesn’t take a half-way house, prison or other circumstances so drastic to fall into the trap of labels and identities that are counterfeits and lies compared to the Truth of who we are intended to be. The courage to stand up and declare, “that’s not who I am” can come easier to a son who’s been to prison than a prisoner of comfort and social acceptability.