“Joy doesn’t just happen: It develops through a combination of effort and understanding. It is a process.”
This quote is taken from Zane Parker Nelson PhD in his book “The Road Most Traveled.”
Judith Campbell has said, “When your heart speaks, take good notes.”
It is with these two thoughts I have felt driven to write this particular post. There are only two people I know who will understand the significance of this post and so it is to them that I write.
The federal justice system feels like a large vortex. You can be grabbed by the outer edges and begin to spin through a landscape of increasingly surreal experiences. For those of us with no legal history whatsoever, the result is a protracted and progressively intense disorientation. Each new pass around the circle moves you through terrain that is unknown and almost unrecognizable. Values and beliefs are tested, and often found wanting, as the system operates completely differently than you have ever been led to believe. As you get pulled through the process there is a sense of inevitability that builds. You realize that the power you are fighting is almost like a natural force, one that you can simply never resist. You feel like flotsam in a giant drain and in the background you can hear the sucking sound.
In the book, “The Tyranny of Good Intentions” Paul Craig Roberts and Lawrence M. Stratton write, “Americans of all stripes increasingly feel that getting in trouble with the law is a random phenomenon, bearing little apparent relationship to guilt or justice.”
They continue on, “There is good reason for this long-standing consensus that crime requires intent. It is both unjust and inefficient to punish actions that are unrelated to criminal intent.” Or when guilty by association only. “Punishment implies moral blameworthiness, and the stigma of a criminal conviction is undercut when no distinction is made between intended and unintended behavior. It is inefficacious to devote law enforcement resources to punishing conduct that is not intentionally criminal.” Or being found guilty of a crime a person didn’t even commit. “If no crime was intended, punishment does not serve as a deterrent against future criminal behavior or protect society from a socially dangerous person. It merely diverts scarce resources from the pursuit of those who intentionally commit criminal acts to those who unintentionally stumble over the law……Few things are more despicable in a free society than public officials who misuse their power and abuse citizens.”
And now some statistics to back up that view:
The United States has the largest prison population in the world, and the second-highest per-capita incarceration rate. In 2013 in the US, there were 698 people incarcerated per 100,000 population. According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), 2,220,300 adults were incarcerated in US federal and state prisons, and county jails in 2013 – about 0.91% of adults (1 in 110) in the U.S. resident population. Additionally, 4,751,400 adults in 2013 (1 in 51) were on probation or on parole. In total, 6,899,000 adults were under correctional supervision (probation, parole, jail, or prison) in 2013 – about 2.8% of adults (1 in 35) in the U.S. resident population. With those kinds of numbers the odds of every family in the US having a family member or close friend incarcerated are high.
And finally just one more quote. This one by William F. “Bull” Halsey,” There are no great men” (or women) “just great challenges which ordinary men,” (and women) “out of necessity are forced by circumstance to meet.”
For me, personally, herein lies the joy:
When the Pilgrims finally left the Netherlands for America they sailed on the Mayflower which was designed as a cargo vessel as was most sailing ships at the time. The Pilgrims were housed in the gun deck, sometimes referred to by the Pilgrims as the “tween deck” or the area “betwixt the decks”, for most of the voyage. Occasionally they ventured to the upper deck, especially during calmer weather when they would be less likely to get in the way of the seamen and there was less danger of being swept overboard. The gun deck had about four gun ports on either side of the ship for cannon. Even though the Mayflower was a merchant ship, it needed to be able to defend itself from pirates and ships from countries hostile to England. The ship also had to be prepared for possible conscription–the King or Queen had authority to turn merchant ships into military vessels during a time of war. The height of the ceiling of the gun deck was only about five and a half feet, so tall people could not have stood up straight. I know humans were a little smaller than we are today but 5 and a half feet isn’t much room to stand up in so their voyage was not a leisure cruise by and stretch.
The Mayflower sailed for 65 days finally arriving in the new world November 9, 1620. It wasn’t until December 23rd 54 days later that they were finally able to leave the ship. During the time they lay at anchor but still confined to the ship William Bradford’s wife fell over-board and was drowned. To make matters worse they had left their only child, a young son, back in the Netherlands to be sent for when they had settled in the new world. He was now alone. During his sorrow he penned these lines, “ Faint not, poor soul, in God still trust, fear not the things thou suffer must; For, whom he loves He doth chastise, and then all tears wipes from their eyes.
Joy comes when we can look past our sorrow and remember that our loving Savior is there. He has paid the price for our suffering and as such has earned the right to succor us and our loved ones. Not only does He have the right He willing blesses us because He loves us.
When we trust in the Father and the Son, we are confident that they love us perfectly. That they want us to be happy and that they will help us grow spiritually. We keep the commandments, we seek to know their will and so what they require even when we desire something else. Or prayers for relief are accompanied by the understanding that Heavenly Father will not resolve matters immediately; that He may allow us to wait so we can continue to learn and to grow. Through it all, we find comfort in the assurance that the Savior understands our trials perfectly. We learn from scripture as part of the Atonement, “he took upon Himself the pains and sickness of His people. He took upon Himself their infirmities, that He may know according to the flesh how to succor His people according to their infirmities.” Because He has experienced our pain, He knows how to help us. Isn’t that great comfort! Isn’t there not joy to be found in those words?
All sorrow will pass. If you have ever experienced real sorrow, you know that to be true. Real sorrow can be followed by real joy.
My thoughts in this post are not meant as a bromide to drop in your mind and everything will be all right. I certainly know that sorrow and heartache don’t work that way. They are real feelings and have to be worked out in our own way. My thoughts are just mine and I share them as a point of references only.