We want to be clear about something “from the gate,” as the homies would say: Our primary goal is not to fix someone out of prison. Nor make sure we “do this right” so that our friend leaving the underground “succeeds” (really, so that we feel we succeeded).
Part of our transformation is letting go of that addiction.
You, like your person coming home, will most likely “fail.” That is, you’ll make some big mistakes. You’ll get nervous and default into old protective patterns. You’ll disappoint others and yourselves. Good news: that’s ok. In losing control, in seeing our own fears and avoided parts of our hearts, we find level ground with the incarcerated.
Kinship, so quickly.
“Success,” if we have to use that word in OPOP, is mutual transformation.
We can’t force it. We can only choose to stay connected, stay open to what comes.
We stay in relationship. We write another letter, risking greater honesty. We reflect in prayer and with each other: “What can you show me about my myself, and about your heart, God, through this?”
And God works through that mess, in surprising ways. Inside both you and your releasing friend.
That’s it, really.
So take a deep breath. The performance pressure’s off.
Pressure off of you, to pull off another person’s “successful” reentry. To make the program “work” for those watching.
And the pressure’s off your friend, too: they don’t have to carry the burden of your expectations, faking a big smile, terrified of letting you down. They can be a mess as you learn as a team how to seek Christ in the mess.
Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries, the most “successful” gang intervention and prisoner reentry organization in the world, tells us that success is only a bi-product of a larger, relaxed love.
Resurrection is God’s work. We get to be part of it, help roll away the stone. And be changed in the process.
Our goal, Father G and Mother Theresa remind us, is success but FAITHFULNESS. As we faithfully stick with someone carrying more than we can imagine, as we let go of control, let go of our fears, and let our hearts be broken, that’s how the light gets in. Something much better begins to happen.
Please read (and re-read throughout this OPOP experience) the excerpted chapter below as a group. Use the questions at the bottom to talk together about how radical this shift in our purpose and definition of “success” will be.
Why do you think we prize success over faithfulness, when it comes to working with others—especially those experiencing poverty, oppression, or incarceration?
Have you already felt the anxiety growing inside, the pressure to make this a “successful” project? Does this segment come as a relief? As a difficult invitation?
Father Greg says success/failure doesn’t have much to do with the gospel. What do you think he means by that? How can that shed light on what Jesus could be inviting you into, through this relationship with someone leaving prison?