Deeply honest and heartfelt, Incarcerated but Free shares how Monique broke the bars of her mental prison, forged an incredible faith in the Lord, and embarked on a path to help families of incarcerated individuals find hope and healing. Monique explores the doubts, fears, and perplexities that often accompany those who have a loved one in prison, and shares the coping strategies she developed to combat each challenge.
Monique uses biblical passages to emphasize the important role God played in her journey, and includes questions for meditation and reflection at the end of each section. From overcoming shame to dealing with anger and frustration, Monique's helpful, compassionate voice offers encouragement for those suffering from their own form of incarceration.
A unique blend of memoir and self-help, Incarcerated but Free offers faith-filled inspiration to bring light to your darkest days.
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INCARCERATED BUT FREEHow to Find Freedom from Your Mental Prison
By MONIQUE PETTAWAY-RAY
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Monique Pettaway-Ray
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIncarceration/Prison Defined
By definition, to incarcerate is to confine or imprison or put in jail. A prison, on the other hand, is a public building for the safekeeping of persons in legal custody, such as those who are being punished for having committed a crime. It is a place of confinement or imprisonment. A prisoner is one who is confined in a prison. This person is forcibly restrained, and his or her freedom is restricted by some cause or condition. Let's take a moment and look at what happens to a person who is in prison. First of all, it can be a place of hard labor. When Delilah deceived Samson, he ended up in prison. There, he became a grinder, or one who grinds grain. That meant that every day he was in prison, his job was to reduce something into fine particles. Grinding was generally left for women to do, so this assignment added to Samson's humiliation. Samson gave in to Delilah's nagging, and that resulted in him being placed in prison.
Many times, we allow others around us to influence our decision-making. We often give in to the pressures of life, and these pressures cause our spirits to be vexed, which leads to prison. Again, I mean not a physical prison but a mental one, one that leaves us trapped in our minds. The second thing that can happen to a person in prison is confinement. To confine means to keep within bounds, to keep in or put limits on, to hold within a location, to deprive of freedom. These words, although spelled differently, hold similar meanings; they all share one thing. All three words relate to being detained in a place where life can become still. What I mean by that is that life seems to be stuck and unmoving, or things around you may seem to be closing in on you and you feel like you have no way out.
An interesting point about being incarcerated or imprisoned or confined is that there are two ways to be incarcerated: mentally and physically. Mental imprisonment involves the mind. This is where our intellect responds to the environment. We allow our surroundings or people to dictate our future or destiny. We rely on other people to validate us or tell us we are good. We rely on others to help us in our decision making. We allow others to have their say in our lives. God wants to set the captives free, yet we allow our minds to trap us and confine us to where we are. The mind is so powerful!
In a workshop I attended, the speaker was discussing children and how children are affected in the inner-city schools. What stood out the most was a statement he made: "Thinking leads to feelings; feelings lead to emotions." That thought stuck with me because it impacted me more than anything. It perfectly described what I was going through right at that moment. I thought about that statement so much that I added my own ending to it. I thought to myself that, if thinking leads to feelings, and feelings lead to emotions, then emotions lead to bondage. I thought so much about that that I began to really understand how the enemy was able to trap me in my mind. I realized that I was giving him power simply by constantly thinking about how bad my situation was. The more I thought about it, the more trapped I became. I began to tell myself that this was my fate, this was my destiny, that I couldn't do any better, this was what God wanted for me. You get the picture. All these statements were lies and tricks of the enemy.
The bottom line is, a thought is like a seed. Seeds need to be watered in order to grow. Well, thoughts are the same way. The more we think about an idea, the more we are watering that idea and the bigger it becomes. It becomes so large that it consumes us, overtakes us and traps us, locking us up mentally. If Satan can obtain ownership of your mind, he has literally taken ownership over you. You have given him the power to rule over you. When God created the heavens and the earth, he said that he gave man dominion over the fish and the sea. He also gave us the ability to control ourselves and our state of being. We have the ability to make choices, and with those choices, we can choose to think ourselves into good or think ourselves into bad. The bible says in (Proverbs 23: 7 NJKV), "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." Well your thinking begins in the mind.
Today is the day you can control your life by changing your thinking. You can change how you live by changing your attitude about your life. I had to get a new attitude about life after I realized the traps of the enemy. I refused to be a victim of my mind and be defeated by the enemy. You can too. When I did that, I found joy. Remember, "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7 NJKV). Start this journey with me. Stop here and begin a journal, chapter by chapter, as you read this book, and meditate on your entries. Answer the questions. Then, look at where you are and where you want to be. I challenge you to walk it out; the journey will get you there. Let's begin by starting your first entry in your journal. Answer the questions that follow this section. I encourage you to be open and honest in your answers. The more open you are, the more you will be able to see and acknowledge the areas in your life that need your greatest attention.
Do you feel trapped in your mind?
Do you feel like your thoughts are controlling you?
Is life passing you by because you are too busy thinking about and sabotaging your own future?
Reevaluate your concept of thought, and change your thinking.
What are your thoughts?
Why are you thinking this way?
What can you do to change them?
How do you plan to change your thinking habits? Write out your plan.
When my loved one became incarcerated, life the way I knew it changed. I was alone and afraid. My perceptions of life changed. Those perceptions led to my becoming a prisoner myself. We fail to realize the impact that true freedom has on our lives. Freedom is the ability to be able to do whatever it is you desire to do, without restraint. Freedom can be mental or physical. Mental freedom allows you to have control over your mind, but what happens when a person's mental freedom is gone? It becomes impossible for a person to function.
Let me make it clear what I mean when I say that being incarcerated will make you lose your freedom. Freedom is the condition of being free of restraints. The mind isn't free from restraints. The enemy will begin to take control of your mind and slowly put you into a deep sleep. Not a literal sleep, but an unconscious sleep. Let's look at the biblical character, Peter. A couple of things happened while Peter was kept in prison: 1) The church prayed for him. 2) He went to sleep in prison. 3) He was bound with chains between two soldiers. In addition, guards stood at the door of the prison.
Can you imagine being put in prison, bound, with guards watching you? And sleeping through it all?
Why is this important?
This is important because, the moment Peter was put in prison, he went to sleep. Sleep is characterized as a natural periodic state of rest for the mind and body during which the eyes usually close and consciousness is completely or partially lost so that there is a decrease in bodily movement and responsiveness to external stimuli.
When my husband went to prison, I experienced a sleep so deep that I missed three years of my life. The tragedy of losing my loved one to the prison system left me vulnerable. I was so vulnerable that the enemy was able to come in and place me in a deep state of depression. My way of expressing depression was simply to sleep. Sleep was my way of dealing with the fact that I truly had drama in my life. If I slept, I didn't have to deal with my fear that everyone was talking about me. If I was sleep, I didn't have to think about my situation. If I was sleep, I just didn't have to deal with anything. I worked, but I couldn't tell you how I made it through the days.
Back to Peter. While he was in prison, the church members were praying for him.
My mother, father, aunts, and the members of my church were praying for me. They could see the pain and agony I was in. They knew that I was struggling to make it. The person they knew seemed to have disappeared.
When life gets tough, we all seem to encounter depression in some form or fashion. But how do we deal with it? How do we cope with the seemingly impossible? Do you have someone to talk to? Can you trust who you talk to? I remember how difficult it was for me to open up. I felt like I couldn't trust anyone. I felt that my freedom had been stolen from me, and I didn't know how to get it back. The enemy seemed to have me right where he wanted me. Not realizing how much of my freedom the enemy had stolen from me, I became immovable, stuck in a place where, although I knew I had freedom, I didn't act like I was free. I couldn't move as I wanted to because I felt like I had two guards watching me, like Peter had.
My enemy, who didn't want to let me out, was guarding me. Remember, Peter had guards right there by him. A guard's purpose is to keep a prisoner from escaping or to maintain control over a person. Satan has many tactics, and one of his tactics is to assign guards over us to keep us from getting the freedom we desire. When Peter got out of prison, he continued to seek the destiny and purpose of his life. The enemy knows that, if he can keep a person from displaying freedom, he can keep that person from his or her purpose and destiny.
In essence this can be called captivity. Captivity is to be taken or held prisoner or fastened so as to prevent from escape. While Peter was held captive, the guard's purpose was to keep him there, so that he could not obtain his freedom or fulfill his purpose.
What about you? Are you being held captive? Have you lost your freedom?
Are you being held captive?
Is the enemy guarding your mind right now?
Is he keeping you from living with freedom?
Is the enemy keeping you locked up in a place that God never intended you to be?
Is your mind free, or do others control you?
Are you fearful? Scared? Afraid?
Take a moment and think about where you are and how you got there.
Is it lining up with the word of God?
If the enemy has your freedom, take it back. Write in your journal how you can obtain your freedom. Make a plan of action. What will you do to get it back? It belongs to you.
Your normal, healthy self. What exactly does that mean? Self is an individual who exists apart from everyone else. Being faithful to an idea or to a person can cause you to do many things. Faithfulness might cause you to somewhat lose yourself, if you are not careful. You can become so dedicated to something or someone that you forget that you also need to be faithful to yourself; after all, if you don't take care of yourself, who will?
Women and men can get caught up in life. They begin to worry about their many cares, such as children, household expenses, chores, and family. In the midst of their concerns, they rarely take time for self. Taking care of your self is very important, though. Even Jesus knew the importance of getting away to regroup for a time. If we don't take the time to regroup, we risk losing part or all of ourselves to unnecessary things. That is why we must take the time to evaluate where we are—and make changes as necessary. An important change may be, making time for your self.
Balance is something we all need in our lives. Balance allows for stability. With stability, people are able to continue to function without feeling as though they are losing themselves.
Let's take it a step further. When people feel like they may be losing themselves, they may become angry or upset because of that loss. How does that happen? Simply by thinking. How powerful, again, thinking can be! I mentioned earlier that thinking leads to bondage. That bondage can lead to depression or anger.
For years, this is where I found myself most of the time—depressed or angry. Remember, the enemy had control of my mind. I didn't realize it, but my thoughts created my actions, and I slowly began to lose myself.
The first couple of years, I kind of stumbled through. They passed by so quickly that, when I looked up, I was in year number four. What had I been doing? Where did all that time go? Where was I? I surely didn't remember much of it! Why?
Let's look at sleep again for a moment. How much of your sleep do you remember? In most cases, the only part of your sleep you remember is what you were dreaming when you woke up. But for those eight hours, you are comatose—oblivious to anything that is going on around you.
Again self is characterized as an individual who exists apart from everyone else. In a present state of self, one can be considered normal and have a healthy state of being. In this sense, we all can relate to the things that make us normal and set us apart. On the other hand, we can all relate to not being in our normal healthy state of minds. When this state is lost, our circumstances can take forefront. Personally, I became consumed with my circumstances, and I forgot about myself. I tuned out my life and my needs, and I focused entirely on my circumstance. Often time when you care for others, you tend to neglect yourself and the things in your own life that are important.
The moment you allow yourself to be consumed by one thing, you lose control over your life. Not literally, but hopefully you understand what I mean. In this sense you have allowed one thing to overtake or consume all of your other concerns. Many things can happen when you neglect yourself; for example, you might lose weight, sleep too much, cry for no apparent reason, lose your appetite, feel hopeless, etc. Most of these are symptoms of depression. Depressed individuals lose who they truly are, and people don't even recognize them. They might think that they are okay. But others around them know the difference. In most cases, though, they won't say anything, they will hope and pray that the person will come back to normal. Sometimes, people distance themselves from a depressed person. Sometimes they will come back in the future to check on their friend or loved one. Depression can take a toll on you and others around you.
But how do you cope with losing a vital part of yourself? How do you get your true self back? What if a person who has lost a part of himself or herself doesn't even realize it? In many cases, we take care of everyone but ourselves. Believe me, I did just about everything but truly take care of myself, mentally. Losing weight, I didn't realize how small I had gotten. I was thinking that I looked good, but, in all honesty, I looked frail. My family was worried about me, but they continued to pray for me. The most important thing that they did for me was never to talk against me; they supported me in every decision I made through out my ordeal. It took a long time for me to realize that I was important and that I needed to think of myself sometimes.
You may be a person who cares for others or even has a gift for helping others. But are you forgetting who else is important—namely, yourself? Sometimes, we view life as a mission and think that if we care for ourselves then we are neglecting others or being selfish. True enough, you never want to think you are higher than others—but you definitely want to remember self. It isn't glamorous to look like a mess just because you are trying to help others. They just might be looking at you and saying to themselves that you need to help yourself before you try to help someone else. The point is, you are valuable, and God thinks that you are too—so why not prepare yourself for the king as Esther did? Esther prepared for months. Her preparation resulted in her blessings. The moment you decide to care for yourself, life will come back to you. The life you feel you lost will return when you resuscitate yourself and become open to this life.
Excerpted from INCARCERATED BUT FREE by MONIQUE PETTAWAY-RAY Copyright © 2011 by Monique Pettaway-Ray. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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