Tuesday, August 15, 2006

the nature of evil

As ridiculous as it sounds, dealing with someone in prison, who would not be there had they not done something against the law, it is very hard to assign evil actions or intent to a person you love, a child in particular. Motherly instincts and reactions are so strong, and the first impulse is to defend your offspring. You search for reasons why that in your own mind make sense, no matter how convoluted your reasoning becomes, because the alternative is just too painful to contemplate. And for the first year (at least in our case), the emphasis is on survival, for everyone concerned. I could not accept that the punishment at some points fit the crime, because I really had not come to grips with the crime itself and what led up to it.

But now that my son is settled in his "home" for the next few years, and seems mentally sane, safe, well and healthy as he can possibly be in prison, certain thoughts and reactions are beginning to assert themselves on both sides. While he was in the county lock-up and our visits were short, it was difficult to talk about "the incident". In fact our first visit to the state prison included finally asking specifically what did happen. In my mind I was satisfied that what we were told was the truth. But that did not change things. Decisions, a lifestyle, a way of living and thinking, made the act possible, accidental, stupid or not. And I see my son once again interested in the lifestyle and things that he was prior to his arrest. The point of prison and the best good it can produce is reformation of the inmate, but that is certainly not a guarantee, the same as merely taking a wrecked car to a body shop makes the car new. The possibility of repair is all that the garage can afford. Change takes place from without and within, and the worst result of a prison can be that it becomes a new safe house rather than a place of transformation.

I have begun to realize my part in this process, and it starts with realizing my son is a sinful human being. Humans do not have the capacity to automatically do what is right. Before all this happened, it was all too easy to assume because he grew up in a Christian home that that thought process and lifestyle was at the core of his being. That is a dangerous assumption. It is for any parent regarding their children, no matter how obedient that child is. Appearances are deceiving. It says in the book of Proverbs that the wicked cannot understand justice. Only those who actively seek God understand it. I have to prefer the truth of scripture over my own motherly love and desire to see the best in my son. It isn't love to ignore what is right in front of our faces. It is to gently, and sometimes not so gently, confront what we know to be wrong. There has to be a plumbline. I love to read the stories of Jesus and how he confronted sinful people. He was always compassionate, truthful, loving and He cut to the chase. I need to pattern my own reactions to people the same way, even my children. Especially my children.


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