“This prison should be torn down,” expressed brother Javier in a semi-angry voice. “The kitchens are rat infested. The cells stink like rust. The water is a shade of brown and tastes like urine. Most of the staff is rude. This place is a class A dump!”
I couldn’t blame him. Technically he was right. This prison is an older prison and older prisons tend to have a long list of inhumane sub-par problems. Compared to other prisons, this place can be considered a dump. No argument there. However, the day Javier expressed his gripe to me, Father had taught me a lesson in the morning that now could be shared with Javier.
As I do most mornings, I read my Bible and meditate on what I’ve read. On this particular morning I felt a strong desire to read the whole letter to the Ephesians. So I did. Once done, I sat in the quiet still of the new morning, digesting all six chapters of what I had just read.
My mind raced back and forth from nugget of truth to nugget of truth found in this awesome letter to the Ephesians. However, my heart was not fully at peace. There had to be something important God wanted me to see that I had not yet grasped. So I turned my handy book light back on and started to reread Ephesians.
Three verses in, the answer hit me right between the eyes. I noticed that even though Paul was in prison – in a dump of a prison – I could not tell or feel any ungrateful or negative attitude coming from him. He had all the right to complain about the unfair treatment he had received, and about the true dump he was in. Yet he chose to set his hope, sights, and trust in heavenly things. His circumstances would not snuff out his joy in the Lord.
That morning I decided to write down a list about the beautiful things this prison held. The same list I pulled out from my Bible and showed Javier. “This list that I hold in my hands,” I explained to Javier, “is a list showing me why this prison is better than Beverly Hills 90210.”
He thought I was joking, until I started reading it:
I live in a gated community.
Free weekly laundry services.
Three square meals a day, rain or shine.
Private cooks and chefs.
Twenty-four hour guards, seven days a week = A+ security.
Private fitness area.
Private medical care 24/7.
Rent-free room and board, utilities included.
Million-dollar views of the Chino Hill mountains.
First-class union-hired maintenance workers (i.e. highly-paid handymen).
After reading my list I reminded Javier that if we dwell in the heavenlies, even in a dump of a prison like this we can escape our circumstances and focus on the blessings that surround us. Paul set a great example for us through his letter to the Ephesians. Paul chose to see the blessings and not the ugly. “We, too,” I advised Javier, “must choose to see the blessings and not the ugly.”
Javier understood and decided to make a “Better than 90210” list for himself, too. He said he would pull it out in times of “ugly.”
Are you going through some “ugly” today? If you are, maybe making a list of all your blessings will help you. If you need inspiration, read the letter to the Ephesians. You will be surprised that Paul was even in prison. Yeah, it’s that good.
From my private suite –
Adrian G. Torres