Living In A Fishbowl - A View From Inside
Written by Glynis Thurley
As somebody who has or is doing time, you don’t need anyone to tell you - it’s a bit crowded around here. You swim in a fishbowl with many other fish. You are packed in tight like a can of sardines. To truly have privacy is a “one off”. The main reality of prison life is to remember that everything you do, big brother (or sister) is always watching you 24/7.
The prison world is often cruel and unforgiving as well as a judgemental place. One positive aspect of the culture is that it tends to respect authenticity - thus if a person is genuine and consistent about what he or she believes or claims to be, then most others will tend to respect that position over time, even if they are not Christians themselves. They will eventually come to admit that you at least seem to be truthful about your faith, even if some may be quick to condemn your shortcomings, most inmates have a keen sense about who is sincere and who is not. In time they will tend to judge you by your overall consistency. Eventually by God’s grace you may even see a non-believer stick up for you and defend you because they have come to see that your faith is a serious matter to you. You should never waiver or switch back and forth - if you are Christan one day and “cool” the next, the others will observe the hipocracy and will not take you seriously. The same negative opinion will also be a result if they see you continuing to participate in conduct that you know God opposes. The key is that we know we are in it for the long run.
Visualize that your faith as a marathon, not a sprint. Similar to someone who hopes to compete in a race you need to engage in discipline and daily training. We commit to training our bodies, souls and our minds - to make our lives count for Christ. We keep our eyes on the finish line in order to win the prize.
The goal is to make our lives “count” for Jesus. We keep our eyes on the prize. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he used the same imagery - “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25.
One of Paul’s close friends was Timothy. Paul wrote to Timothy just prior to being put to death because of his faith. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” 2 Timothy 4:7. A statement all Christians all over the world hope to speak as the end of their individual race approaches.
Be patient, be faithful, give yourself time to learn the ways of the Holy Spirit. Submit to his urges and disciplines. And when you fall do not allow the devil (or yourself) to beat you up about it. “For though a righteous man falls seven times, he arises again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes” Proverbs 24:1.
Your consistent “long run” devotion to Christ will reflect your sincerity. Take encouragement from the visual changes that are taking place in your life by the power of the Spirit at work within you and you will bring hope to others that God’s power could possibly change their lives as well.
When I am locked in my cell I pray to God. I thank Him for loving me and return the love to him. As I worship Him, glory fills my cell, His love fills my heart and his loving arms embrace me. Sleep is soon to follow.
Written by Glynis Thurley 14 December 2018, edited 4 March 2019.