pri·or1 ˈprī(ə)r/ noun NORTH AMERICAN informal plural noun: priors a previous criminal conviction. "he had no juvenile record, no priors"
I met with “F” tonight. He is new to the unit. Apparently, his trial went quickly since he said he is due for release in 60 days.
This is not his first time through. Middle-aged, he said he is an example of the revolving door of the system.
He has priors.
Chasing his addiction brings him back each time. He is getting weary and is searching for a way to break the cycle.
He said he’s had little exposure to church, or the Bible. But he has seen others break their cycle of addiction when they began following God. He wants to know more.
We discussed his release plan: what he was going to do for shelter, food, clothing, transportation. Things that many of us take for granted can become a major stumbling block. There are resources, but it still takes some planning. Guys without a plan and a support system can end up getting quickly re-arrested.
For our study we looked at how God dealt with other people who had priors. I gave “F” some context for what we were reading. In our scripture God was speaking to people who had a history of messing up and ignoring God’s instructions. Now they were serving 70 years in captivity.
Jeremiah 29:11-14a (NKJV)
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity;
What are God’s thoughts towards those with priors, who are serving time now? Thoughts of peace and not evil. Consider the contrast for a person behind the walls where there is violence and evil plotting.
to give you: not earned, but a gift of grace.
a future: this is in stark contrast to the prospect of a life with no future
a hope: many things are in short supply behind the walls. At times hope can be the most rare
Even as the people are serving their sentence God isn’t plotting revenge. He isn’t pointing the boney finger of judgement. God has hope for a future even when the people were without hope.
So, what is the road back? How is the cycle of the revolving door broken?
Then you will call upon Me: Even before the prayer there is a call. God is already listening and waiting for the call.
and go and pray to Me: It is a safe place to pour your heart out to God. It is a safe place to ask for what you need.
and I will listen to you: The most influential relationship we have are with people who listen to us. God doesn’t immediately start telling us what to do. He listens. He wants relationship. It isn’t about fixing us, it is about Him being in relationship with us, and we with Him.
when you search for Me with all your heart: The addict knows what it is like to search for something with all his heart – when nothing else matters.
you will seek Me and find Me: Seeking implies that there is a journey, there is a process. It isn’t just a flash of light and all is suddenly better. God isn’t found as a destination. God is found in the seeking.
I will be found by you, says the Lord:God is actively seeking and searching for us. He isn’t just waiting passively. We do the seeking, but God does the finding.
I will bring you back from your captivity:This is a recognition of the things that have held us captive. It isn’t just incarceration. It can be in addictions, in unforgiveness, in all the things that have ensnared us.