In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness month, we offer the following contribution by CM. The author—a male prisoner incarcerated in a maximum-security prison—reflects on the theme of violence against women by engaging in a close reading of 2 Samuel 13, the horrific story of Amnon’s rape of his sister Tamar.
“Tamar’s Tears” by CM
I am a 40 year old man who has been in prison for 22 years. I have met men who have committed some of the most horrific acts one could possibly imagine, and many others who were indeed falsely accused. Yet, one thing that is true for everyone in a maximum security prison is the fact that our presence on this side of the wall represents a victim on the other side of the wall; another human being, victimized by his or her fellow man, even if not the man charged.
As one who finds solace in the words written in the Bible, I turn to the text of scripture to discover a way to make sense of this experience and grasp this dynamic relationship. This interplay between perpetrator and victim. The workings of the mind that grants one the proverbial green light to move forward and alter another’s peace.
Fourth Sunday of Easter: Year C
When I was younger, I had a distorted view on how to worship God. Many times I would say, “I’m not ready yet.” I thought that before I can enter in his presence, I had to be perfect. That’s crazy, right? It was not until I heard his voice, that I realized I had it all wrong.
by Matthew B. Harper
Luke 1:32-33 – …the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever.
Jesus, the eternal Lord, sits upon the throne of David. Prisoners love the story of David. David the great king was also David the murderer and adulterer. In David’s story we see great sin, but also profound repentance and deep faith. On this the holy dynasty was founded.
Did David suffer for his sins? Of course. David lost his kingdom for a time, his family, and the son conceived in adultery died. But all of his suffering changed him, and it rooted his faith even deeper. David wasn’t strong enough to be used by God. He became weak enough.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said “the cross we bear always proceeds the cross we wear.”
We all bear our cross. We all sin. We all suffer. In well-to-do suburban churches this is not a common or easy truth, so learn it from those who know it intimately. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. When we are able approach God with profound repentance, and are willing to remain steadfast in our faith, God will use us, and transform us. Everyone is capable of repentance, and from a position of profound repentance you can be weak enough to be used by God and raised to great heights.
“Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which giveth life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen” BCP 167
Psalm 63 is almost an identical recitation of my nightly prayers. David was in the wilderness of Judah when he composed this psalm and as anyone who has ever served a minute of time could tell you, prison is very much a spiritual wilderness. David speakers of searching for God and seeking him out as a priority in the first verse. I myself must seek God that way. In my environment a person can very easily be pulled further and further toward debauchery and away from God by the unending siren’s call of immoral distraction. Without earnestly searching for God, minding and renewing ourselves of that effort each and every day, a person will become lost and worse yet may lead others astray as well.
The image David invokes when he describes his thirst for the water of God in a dry and thirsty land, is one that is relatable to any Christian prisoner in any cell house in America. But, like David I too have seen the glory of God and I too praise him with all my body, mind and soul.
In verses 3-5, David understand that just by praising God he is nourished and his soul is satisfied. If I have nothing else I have the ability to praise and worship god. That thought always brings shalom to my bone and peace to my anxiety.
When I read verses 6-8, I am reminded of the countless times when I am kept up at night by the noise and chaos of the cell house. I am forced to pray myself to sleep and I am grateful for it. “For what?” you might ask. No matter how clamorous or vexing the assault on my sanctuary of serenity may be, the Lord’s peace is equal to the foe. It’s a form of spiritual warfare. Night after night, spirits of torment manipulate tortured souls to draft others into their ranks. I lie on my bunk and like David meditate on the Lord in the night watches. I pray for those poor unfortunate souls who are so agonized nightly and it forces me ever closer to God each night. And for that I am extremely grateful and I rejoice.