Becoming Free {}I recently received a rare phone call from my dad.  He had some important news for me.  It was supposed to be a surprise, but he either could not wait to tell me, or wanted to check my reaction before the bombshell was officially dropped to make sure it would go off okay.

See, my uncle was released from prison.  It was unexpected.  I still don’t know if it is because he has served his original sentence, or if they are just letting non-violent offenders go because of overcrowding.  Regardless, my uncle is a free man.  He isn’t even on probation or parole, or whichever.

It is odd because he has been in prison on and off almost my entire life.   (For the sake of honesty, my dad has spent a bit of time there, too.)

I began asking my dad a ton of questions in rapid succession.  Does he (my uncle) have a phone?  Will he call me?  Does he have any money?  How is he getting around?  Does he have a job?  Where is he going to live?  How is he going to your place?  Is he going to live with you?

Dad only interrupted to answer the last question.  “He can’t live with me.  We are convicted felons.  They frown upon convicted felons living together.”

Dad and I kept talking, but I can’t recall details of the conversation.  All I could think about was my dad and my uncle both being convicted felons.

They are not murderers, and no one is on the sex offender registry, but they are drug addicts, and assailants, and con artists, and thieves, and even escapees.  That doesn’t include the list of stuff that they haven’t been arrested for, or things aren’t legally considered crimes (like adultery).

I can not stop going over their record of wrongs (yes, the one I am not supposed to keep out of love).  I keep thinking of all the ways the men (not just my Dad and uncle) in my family have hurt other people, and most acutely – me.

That is where I come from.  That is my blood – my heritage.

I realized that It wasn’t just my dad and uncle behind bars.  I have been in prison, too.  I have been held captive by being born to my father, and into this family.  Labels are my bonds.

Good for nothing.
Never amount to anything.
Just like them.

I don’t know how to escape.  I have tried my entire life, to no avail.  I don’t know how to disassociate from these destructive trademarks.

But I know who does.

I have to give it to God.  I have to rely on His strength.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Psalms 46:1 (NIV)

I have to remember that I am a work of God and that He made me out of good things.

 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)

I have to remember that I am a child of the heavenly Father, and He never leaves me or forsakes me.

Though my father and mother forsake me,
    the Lord will receive me.

Psalm 27:10 (NIV)

The Lord himself will go ahead of you. He will be with you. He will never leave you. He’ll never desert you. So don’t be afraid. Don’t lose hope.”

Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIRV)

I have to remind myself that I can’t do it, and no one on Earth can do it for me.

Stop trusting in mere humans,
    who have but a breath in their nostrils.
    Why hold them in esteem?

Isaiah 2:22 (NIV)

I have to remember that God loves me, regardless of my sin or that of my family.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8 (NKJV)

But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Corinthians 6:11 (NKJV)

And I have to remember the abundant blessings in my life.  I am not a convicted criminal.  I have never been incarcerated.  God allowed me to have children, and keep them.  He provided me with a man who loves me relentlessly, just as he loves our children.  The Lord has allowed us to build a happy home together.  I am not bound by chains of my past or the choices of my kin.

I have to cling to the new labels that came when I was born again.

Set free.
Child of God.

My uncle wasn’t the only one set free.