Pope Francis has said something profound to ponder. I know. He generally does this all the time. That’s why he’s beloved by so many.
In a letter to prisoners in Velletri, Italy, he wrote: “Inmates are living an experience in which time seems both to be stopped, and to never end. The true measure of time is not that of the clock. …The true measure of time is called hope.” Source.
I have two sons serving time in prison. One was just sentenced again and is preparing for his longest sentence yet. The other is in the middle of a 30-year bit. What a weird slang “bit” is when it comes to doing time in prison. It is never a little bit. We’ve done every day with him, though dealing with this time for us is very different than it is for him. It certainly feels like the true measure of time is the clock which seems to be stopped and to never end.
Yet the Pope switches it up and declares that the true measure of time is called hope. What?!
I know for Kenneth hope is hard to come by. The situation around him is dreary. Lots of people—both inmates and correctional officers—have given up on hope. This lack of hope certainly affects decisions which are made around him. You’ve watched enough HBO to fill in that word picture.
So I keep reminding him that hope is Plan B. This is one of the greater truths that Dr. Brene Brown has taught me. Hope is a function of struggle. Hope is a combination of: setting goals; having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them; and believing that worthiness is your birthright. From this struggle I can make a Plan B.
Plan A has crushed me at times. For example, prison is a daily part of my life. Plan A was the “supposed-to” part of my life. My boys were loved and taught and had a chance to not go to prison. It was easy to hope when this was “supposed-to” happen. Of course I can hope when this “supposed-to” was in play. But it didn’t happen that way. Now I have a choice. I can keep on living in Plan A and throw a temper tantrum at God because he “promised” this “supposed-to” was going to happen. Or I can just numb myself to get through the discomfort of the reality that Plan A is not going to come to be. I can make the decision (and this is a me thing not a God thing) to find a Plan B. Out of my broken-heart I can find a way to set new goals; strengthen my tenacity muscles (Romans 5:3-5 so true!); because I believe worthiness is my birthright. I believe I am worthy of having something good happen to me—and my sons. I believe that God is for me. I believe that I still am the recipient of God’s promises for me because they are wider than my “supposed-to’s.” I trust the Promiser.
I trust the Promiser even for Kenneth’s dire situation. We keep finding the Plan B in his situation. Trust me. This is more than just looking for that “silver lining” in everything. That can get rather old rather quick when you are looking at 30 years. This is truly believing that God is for Kenneth and God has Kenneth’s “back” through it all. And whatever this all is, God is going to redeem every bit of it to grow Kenneth into the wonderful man that he is—and the even more wonderful man he will be. There has been a lot of whatevers already for us to live through. Yet we find that God redeems this crap every time.
So this is what the Pope means. The true measure of Kenneth’s 30 years is this hope. He is a different man than when he was originally arrested. He is a different man than he was even 5 years ago. In the most dire situations which he has to live through, Kenneth continues to become the better man. This is happening somehow in our screwed up and corrupt prison system. God redeems this crap every time.
I still wish from the bottom of my soul that Kenneth’s life could have turned out differently. But I truly believe when we get to the end of this, I am going to find gratefulness for the man he is becoming. He is becoming a man who is doing more than serving his time. He is becoming a man who knows hope. And that is a strength.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13. This is strength.
Hope isn’t an emotion; it’s a way of thinking. It is why the Apostle Paul was able to write the things he did while he was in prison himself.