This is what my son wrote me. He is the one serving a long-term prison sentence. This is what he has learned about struggle now that he is nearing the end of this sentence. He has suffered much from the dehumanization of the prison system.
He sounds like he has learned Bravester living. He has learned that pain is his beginning. He has learned this from a place of depth that some of you know and you didn’t serve time in prison.
Hello, best person. It is nice to meet you.
Words from my son:
“Job 2:4-5 is a clear example of what ignorant people will do, even people who know in extreme situations. We don’t see the beauty that comes out of struggle at first. This recognition comes over time. If we are blessed to see it for what it really is. Those lusts are real and hard to conquer. That takes time. But it’s attainable.”
Time. Dang, we do learn so much when we allow time to teach us. The irony is my son is learning this about struggle while “serving time.” That irony is rich.
I love this old Hebrew proverb, “Time heals old pain, while it creates new ones.”
Job 2:4-5 is “Satan replied to the Lord, ‘Skin for skin! A man will give up everything he has to save his life. 5 But reach out and take away his health, and he will surely curse you to your face!’”
Yes, Satan is real and realizes that too many of us will do compromising things to not feel the pain of our lives. But what if we could see the beauty of our pain? What if we were not afraid of our pain?
More from Kenneth:
“Patience and gentleness are also learned over time. These things are all a part of the process.
“Many of days and nights I sat in that segregation. I had to go within. Those times of isolation was where I received the best answers. I had nothing but my Bible. Those were some enlightening times. Moments that learned me.
“What John Perkins says about struggle can’t no one contest in good conscious. The best people come from the struggle. I ain’t talking about me. My struggle was minor. I just recognize what’s born through struggle.”
What inspired these words came from a book my son and I read together, Count It All Joy by John M. Perkins, written in the 90th year of this great man’s life. This book is a life perspective of a best person, someone I admire greatly. John Perkins has lived through many tragedies and injustice and continues to bravely hold tightly to Jesus.
Were you drawn like I was to “Patience and gentleness are also learned over time. These things are all a part of the process.”
Of all the vulnerable fruits of the Spirit to mention, Kenneth mentions these two hard ones that he has learned while living in a hard situation. I asked him more about this.
“Patience and gentleness are required nowadays. I have learned that a gentle word will soothe the wildest brute. (Proverbs 15:1) Patience is to deal with the millions of personalities that you will encounter in life.
“We call everyday consideration common sense. But it seems that this isn’t common nowadays. It’s not taught in the home anymore. No one says ‘excuse me,’ ‘thank you,’ or ‘watch what you’re doing.’ It’s like they are in a bubble of a world of their own. Everyone is not mentally or physically the same. So the capabilities are going to differ.
“We have to be patient and gentle with people so that they will hopefully correct what it is that they need to correct. This is the idea but it just ain’t that simple. You have to have patience. Real Patience. This is the world today. You either have gentleness and patience or fight with fools every day. I ain’t no fool so I had to develop those traits.
“p.s. Patience is a process which requires daily tempering. When you pray for patience you have to be aware of the responsibility for that you are asking. The tests that come along with the process of patience are trying. It seems as if an energy arises in you easier than normal with small situations. Then the trials come back-to-back. These are the tools that the Lord uses when teaching us. When I read John Perkins he is pretty sharp with how life learns us. That patience takes time to develop. It is a spiritual process as well as a mental one. You have patience for personalities and characteristics of people. Many disagreeable ways. Tolerance and patience go hand-in-hand. It is a daily task for me but I know how to work it.”
My son ain’t no fool. He’s one of those best people.
John M. Perkins told this story in the same book, Count It All Joy,
“A. Parnell Bailey visited an orange grove where an irrigation pump had broken down. The season was unusually dry and some of the trees were beginning to die for lack of water. The man giving the tour then took Bailey to his own orchard where irrigation was used sparingly. ‘These trees could go without rain for another two weeks,’ he said. ‘You see, when they were young, I frequently kept water from them. This hardship caused them to send their roots deeper into the soil in search of moisture. Now mine are the deepest-rooted trees in the area. While others are being scorched by the sun, these are finding moisture at a greater depth.’” –p. 118
Suffering drives us deeper into God. Even when we have raging anger at God.
I wrote this in response to Kenneth:
“Those times in isolation are going to be the faith markers of your life. Something to hate when it happened. Something to be grateful for on this side of it for what happened inside of you. On the surface as I write this it makes no sense. But I know that you know that this makes complete sense.
“I hate the suffering you’ve been through. Particularly the dehumanization of someone whom I love so much. I am growing to be grateful for your choices to allow this to make you the man you are today.”
May these words become your brave prayer written by John Perkins:
“At ninety years of age I can finally say, like David and like the apostle Paul, ‘Thank you, Lord, for my suffering. Thank you for the storms you brought me through. Thank you for every tear that has been shed. Thank you for your watchful eye that knew just how much I could bear. I rejoice in all that you have done. Thank you, Lord, for my hurting.” P. 124
My son calls his suffering minor. Having walked every day of his incarceration with him, I cannot say the same. His incarceration has shaped me in deep ways. I find my roots in Jesus going deeper with every passing year.