I Have Been Thinking About Prison Lately…(Long and Serious Post)
I am currently reading, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch by Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn who just passed away less than two weeks ago. No, I did not start reading the book after he died just to figure out what all the hoopla was about, I was already reading it. It is slow-going and a bit painful. It is loosely autobiographical about one day of the life of a prisoner in a Soviet prison camp.
And on Monday my Tulane friend “Bots” and I went to Constitution Hill here in Jo’burg. Constitution Hill now holds the beautiful and best thought out building I have ever seen, the new Constitutional Court building. But it uses materials and stands on the grounds of the Old Fort Prison. The Old Fort itself was a prison for white men, there was once a women’s prison that held white women separately from black or colored and then there was the Number Four building that contained black and colored men. We went on a tour which was depressing and sorrowful.
When people are imprisoned and tortured they sometimes become worse than their captors. They treat one another like animals. One famous prisoner even started the Ninevites, a prison gang that has evolved into the 28’s (I am providing a link to a story about this gang but be forwarned this is not an easy one to read, definitely no children should read about this gang). I remember hearing about and fearing the 28s even though I was not in prison and probably never would be.
All these thoughts have churned with some others that I have had in my head for years. I have always wondered why in movies characters fight so hard to keep their lives even when they are miserable already or will only get worse if they keep breathing. I am not saying they should commit suicide, please understand me, it’s just that I would rather get it over with and get onto heaven than be imprisoned or beaten to the edge of death, etc. Are you hearing me? I’m not sure these thoughts make any sense on the internet.
I love many aspects of this life. But there are times even in my cushy existence that it is so very rough already and if there was risk of imprisonment or something similar I would probably just pray to be allowed to go to heaven instead of toughing it out.
Until I heard this chorus by the Gaithers again today:
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!
And I was challenged in all my thoughts. Maybe it was worth living a life of imprisonment in a Soviet camp just because Christ rose again and lives today!
But then I started studying. I wanted Biblical proof that backs this song up, a solid reference, a psalm, something. I haven’t found it.
So now I am inviting you, dear readers who I desperately hope understand just a taste of this post, to help me find one or to share your opinions. Is life always worth fighting for or living a mundane existence in a prison camp? Or do I simply pray for what I want in that moment–either to live or to die and move into eternity and then let the Lord do with me as he wills?
Are we all to cling to Paul’s words: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” (Phil 1:22-24) Obviously right now I am called to live and I don’t see any wardens coming to imprison me anytime, so this is all hypothetical deep thoughts. But we never know, do we?
If this post confuses you, let me know. If it makes you think, let me know. If you’re praying for me, thank the Lord we can always use prayers.