|Corrections: A High Calling - Part I|
|By Mike Raneses, Parole Agent, California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation|
Today, countless thousands of corrections professionals will leave the secure environment of their homes and families and embark on a journey that most citizens would deem unthinkable. A journey that will occupy their full attention and energies for the next 8 to 12 hours. A journey where these brave men and women leave safety behind, for the razor-wired confines of a prison or jail as corrections officers, or the mean streets of our cities as probation officers or parole agents.
Day in, day out, they soldier-on, maintaining a stoic façade, but often secretly wondering if it’s all worth it. Is what I’m doing important? Am I doing any good – for myself, my family, my community? Does anyone really care?
In this article, and in the two that follow, we will make the case that working in Corrections, because it is a vital component of the criminal justice system, is more than work, but it is a calling, a High Calling. Our quest for meaning and purpose as corrections professionals will begin with the very nature of work itself, that work was designed to be more than drudgery, but to fulfill the very purpose of man.
In the Beginning
Before going any further in this discussion, I acknowledge that some reading this article may disagree with my premise that man has a Designer and was created for a purpose. I was once where you may be, unsure of my place in the cosmos. But, after 45 years in law enforcement, developing and utilizing my investigative and reasoning skills as a deputy sheriff, probation officer and parole agent, it is much more reasonable for me to believe that I was created by a skilled Designer rather than being the result of some cosmic accident without purpose or value.
Work Comes From God
Work was God's loving idea from the beginning, in and through creation. After reporting the creation of male and female on the sixth day, the writer of Genesis quotes God as saying,". . . your descendants will live over the earth and bring it under their control. I am putting you in charge of the fish, the birds, and all the wild animals. . . . Then the Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and guard it" (Genesis 1:28)
The first glimpse we have of the human person in Scripture shows someone working as a farmer and manager of the rest of creation—joyously, purposefully tilling the ground and exercising respectful stewardship over all the earth.
The Bible portrays work as part of God's very nature. "If God is the worker," Elton Trueblood wrote in his book Your Other Vocation ". . . then men and women, in order to fulfill their potentialities, must be workers too. They are sharing in creation when they develop a farm, paint a picture, build a home, or polish a floor." We are exercising our dignity as creatures made in God's likeness when we work. Our work is the dual task of continuing God's creative process and taking good care of what God has entrusted to us.
There is hardly a human occupation that does not in some way involve being a coworker, a co-creator with God. We are sharing in God's work. We are expressing God's image in our work – even in, maybe especially in, our service in government in the criminal justice system.
Work is to be Directed to the Well-being of Society
Our destiny as "made in the image of God" includes participation in God's work of developing, maintaining, and enhancing community. Our work is to benefit the civil society in which we live and work. In addition, we're called to be creative. What is the creative element of your work? What is the common benefit of your work? "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's hunger meet," Frederick Buechner wrote. Can this be true in the Corrections profession? Absolutely!
In the biblical understanding of work (for all of life for that matter), there is no separation between that which is sacred or secular. The sacred-secular distinction comes from Plato and Greek dualism. The Bible knows nothing of that distinction. All work is sacred since God created and uses that work to sustain God's creation and participate in God's purposes.
Work is a Primary Way in Which We Honor and Worship God.
Avodah is a Hebrew word that means both worship and work. The Apostle Paul encourages the Colossians, "And whatever you do, . . . do it all in the name of Jesus giving thanks to God . . . whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord" (Colossians 3:17,23). Your work is a High Calling!
Passing a construction site, a pedestrian asked three bricklayers what they were doing. The first said that he was earning a living to feed and clothe his family. The second said, "I'm throwing these bricks together to build a wall." The third responded, "I am helping to build a cathedral for the glory and worship of God." What a difference your perspective makes in giving meaning to your work!
My corrections colleague, please know that you and your work are important to the well-being of our society. More importantly, you are important to the God who created you. You have a High Calling!
Next time, we will focus on the specific High Calling of working in the criminal justice system as an integral component of the governmental structure God created.
Corrections: A High Calling - Part II
Corrections: A High Calling - Part IIi
Corrections.com author, Mike Raneses, is a 40-year criminal justice veteran with service as a Deputy Sheriff, Probation Officer, and most currently as a Parole Agent with the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation. Also serving as a Professor of Criminal Justice with the University of Phoenix, he resides in Tustin, CA with his wife Ruth where they lead Corrections Staff Fellowship, an organization designed to help staff maintain their faith and values while walking “The Toughest Beat in the Nation.”
Other articles by Mike Raneses
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