How Loss Tragedy and Difficult Circumstances have Impacted my Faith by, Erika East
When i think about how my life has been affected by loss, tragedy, and difficult circumstances, it seems to be almost too easy to look at how prison has impacted my life, my faith in a negative way. Oddly, this is not the case.
Prison has been a loss and tragedy by the people that have suffered because of my actions. I can never take back or “fix” what brought me here; I can only ask for forgiveness and move forward. This is not because I am being selfish. I am trying to honor those that I hurt by helping others and in order to help others, I have to help myself. The difficulties are more than just the things that you miss, the mindset that can overtake you can become the most detrimental thing that happens to you. This environment can breed suspicion and paranoid behavior and only exacerbate any previous issues that you may have had with those thought patterns. Growing up with a Vietnam veteran who later became a police officer, you end up immulating what you witness in your home. I lost my father in 2004 and my mother in 2012. I was in prison when both of my parents passed away. Because both parents lived out of state, I couldn’t attend their funerals and it was hard to have complete closure. By the time my mother passed away, I felt like my brain had experienced an acid bath. So many things that I found to be important fell to the wayside; except my faith. I did not feel like anyone truly understood how I felt except for God. He understood. I wasn’t mad at him for calling my parents home but to say I was furious at myself for putting myself in this position in the first place was an understatement. And what do you do when you are mad at yourself? You deflect.
I think back to the way that I used to act towards people when I get overwhelmed. I can revert back to being the unpleasant person I used to be. I never saw the glass half full, it was always almost empty. I would snap at people and my words were laced in venom. Sometimes words hurt deeper than anything else and once they leave your mouth, you cannot take them back. I sometimes wonder how many friendships and relationships I have messed up because I could not get myself together. The most shameful thing for me is that it took losing my mother to finally have a good acid bath go across my brain and for me to stop and reflect on my life.
When I realized how awful of a person I had become, I began to make changes. Some were not easy. Some changes took a lot of prayer. I often wonder if God ever had to mute me because I talked to Him so much. I have issued apologies and for some, it has been well-received; others I have lost forever. Hard lessons bought and paid for. Yet my faith is still strong. I know that God has plans for me. I listen for instructions and follow what He asks. Some days He is quiet and I just keep working at being a better person. Currently in our Lipscomb class, we are absorbing information on how to interpret scripture and I have realized that I have to learn to apply myself to what God’s word is saying, not what I want it to say. Every day is still in the right direction and there is so much that God will do with me if I will continue to allow Him to work through me.
**Erika recently completed her Bachelors in Professional Studies with Lipscomb University. She is now working on her Master’s Degree in Pastoral Care. Congrats, Erika!
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