Thursday, February 9, 2017

This Foreign Reality

I haven't written for almost a month for several reasons. Primarily, I have been incredibly busy trying to keep up with my increased responsibility load. It was already a pretty hefty load but with Zane gone, I have genuinely struggled to keep it all together.

I've also been scared to continue to be open about our lives. With that openness comes a vulnerability that I hate to expose. I just recently felt like it was probably time to share an update, and today I discovered an open and viscous attack on one of my stores because of Zane. Although it's incredibly petty and inaccurate (since I am the sole owner of all three- not Zane), the attacks hurt. I wish I could thicken my skin and not let things phase me, but it's much easier said than done.

To those compelled to spew such hate, let me just ask this: what do you seek to accomplish? Why would you ever take pleasure in destroying other people's lives? Who gave you the moral authority to sit in judgement of other's struggles? Do you not realize that you will be judged in the same way you are judging? What if it was your loved one that people were demonizing and maliciously labeling?

I would much rather just stop talking about all this and let time wipe away the reminders. But what good would that accomplish? I might feel more comfortable, more safe... but then no one else benefits. I am so overjoyed to hear from so many of you who have started having the hard conversations in your homes... those of you who have opened up about your own struggles... and the countless messages of prayer and support. So it's for you that I write. I pray you find encouragement, that your eyes are opened to some of the "forgotten" in our culture, and that maybe you're reminded to love a little harder.

I've been very fortunate to be able to speak with Zane on the phone twice per day for 15 minutes. He calls each morning and night through a prepaid phone account. He could call more, but we limit it because the calls are very costly. I am able to visit him twice per week, as long as I call and register before the alotted spaces fill up. The drive is 3 1/2 hours one way, and the visit only lasts an hour, but it's 100% worth it.

I've never visited a jail before and had no idea what to expect. The reality of the situation was one that was incredibly hard to swallow. Four men are kept in a single living area with two bunk rooms. There is one small window and the walls are entirely cinder block and this time of year, very cold. They are given a jumpsuit to wear. They can purchase two T-shirts and two long sleeve thermal shirts so long as a loved one funds a commissary account for them. If temperatures outside are cold, it's often very chilly inside as well. There is a table with stationary backless metal stools in the living area. They have a bunk with a 1-2 inch thick mattress, a desk, and another metal stool in the bunk room. That is it for furniture. There is no couch, no comfortable surface.

There is a TV that comes on around 10am and goes off around 11pm. There is no place to exercise and no way to do any kind of work or be productive. They are permitted to go to the library twice per week. They are not allowed to have any books brought in from family/friends. After 4 weeks, we finally got approval to bring Zane a watch. I dropped it off on Monday. He still doesn't have it yet. Just walking into the jail, it's clear that it's a very cold, depressing environment.

I don't honestly know how anyone in that environment is supposed to get any better. Sure, they are there because they have committed a crime. It shouldn't be a cushy, fancy place. But, ultimately, what is our desire for criminals as a community? Do we not want them to get the help they need and become honest, upright, and productive members of the community again? I would MUCH rather my tax dollars be used to rehabilitate people than to simply lock them up in a depressing place and release them to go right back to what got them there in the first place.

I would venture to say that most inmates have struggled with mental health in some form- whether it be moral or simply mental. How then are we achieving a goal of rehabilitation if we are encouraging them to sit around doing nothing but watch TV in a genuinely depressing environment? Our system is surely flawed.

Thankfully, Zane has continued to be one of the strongest people I know. He's been reading every good book from the library he can get his hands on. He's been writing super long letters to me and to many family and friends. He's been studying two different versions of the Bible, and has read all the way through more than once. He views this time as his chance to grow closer to God and continue becoming a better man. His outlook has remained very positive and often I find him being the one encouraging me. I see genuine growth, true healing, and a strength that could only come from God.

We have started to get to know the people at the jail. I've gotten familiar with the other family members who faithfully visit, and Zane has gotten to know the guys in his cell block. It's incredibly sad to hear about the vicious cycle that drugs have so many of them caught in. I just can't help but think that there must be a better way to break this cycle.

Interacting with the people there has opened my eyes to a whole new world. It has humbled me and given me a love for so many of the people that our society rejects. I feel like instead of seeing someone's outer shell, I've started to see the humanity in them.. and my heart breaks for them just as it was broken for my own situation. The reality is.. every sinner and every "saint" is loved so deeply by our Heavenly Father and his heart breaks for all the pain in our lives. It's a shame more of us couldn't learn to love people like him.. myself included.

I have seen what support, forgiveness, and accountability have done for Zane. He's a different person than he was when trapped in this addiction. I wonder what those same things could do for others. This approach certainly does not dismiss sin, crime, or wrongdoing of any kind. But it instead provides an environment in which it can be addressed and eliminated through love.

I chose to love my husband when many would have told me to run. I chose to do this. What came naturally was hurt, anger, and disgust. But if I had held on to that natural response, I genuinely don't know where Zane or I would be today. Healing doesn't come through hate or bitterness. And nothing good ever came from judgement and malice.

This time in our lives may be excruciatingly trying, but I meant my marriage vows when I said them. We've been through every one of those situations together (better or worse, sickness & health, etc.), and I am certainly not going to check out when the going gets tough. I know many people whose marriages fell apart against their best efforts, and I know that it's not always up to you. I don't fault anyone for that. But in my situation, I have a husband that is fully repentive, has genuinely confessed and owned up to his actions, and is completely committed to living his life free from that addiction. Sure, he has a past. He's made mistakes. But for me to hold onto that and walk away simply because I don't want to put the effort in or it makes me uncomfortable would be selfish and weak. I'm sure I wouldn't have hate coming my way if I had left Zane, but commitment isn't just for the easy times. Real commitment means you hang on and you get through the garbage together. And I would much rather be getting through this garbage with Zane than have any other man by my side.