One of the unfortunate realities of living in prison is the ever present possibility of violence. Danger can occur in any situation at anytime. However, even with that reality, there is a lot that someone in here can do to try and stay safe. Doing so takes effort and vigilance, not to mention a lot of prayer and following the Spirit! There have been times when I have prayed and then felt like the spirit placed a cocoon around me, protecting me from what was going on all around.
Currently, I feel blessed to be in a place where the violence is much less frequent than in other places I have been. While this is no doubt a good thing, I recently realized that it has allowed me to feel complacent about my safety at times. I got to a point where I was too comfortable. I was going about my days and getting into a routine that did not involve staying constantly aware of my surroundings and environment. I feel fortunate that even with that relaxed attitude, I stayed safe.
Sadly, something recently happened here where others were not so fortunate. Violence hit hard and people were hurt that did nothing to deserve it and had done nothing to put themselves in that situation. This incident quickly put everything back in perspective for me. I was reminded that as much as I might try to forget it, I am in prison, and therefore, I need to constantly be doing that things that keep me safe. The phrase that kept coming to my mind over and over again was, “Be vigilant”.
Vigilance to me, means to be aware of my surroundings. Vigilance means that I need to be looking for potential danger and doing whatever I can do to avoid it. As I spent time looking at my own routines and what I could do to improve my constant vigilance, I was reminded of a scripture I had read in the past. I had to look it up in the Topical Guide, but I found it in 1 Peter 5:8
“. . . be vigilant because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”.
Reading this had a powerful impact on me because it’s clear that in the scripture, they are not talking as much about being vigilant for physical safety, as much as they are about spiritual safety. If I consider it important to be vigilant in relation to physical safety, should I not consider it even more important to be vigilant for my spiritual safety. However, this doesn’t just apply to being in prison.
No matter where I am, what I’m doing, or how old I am, I need to be vigilant. And if I look back at my life, I can see the same pattern in my spiritual life. There were many times that I felt spiritually “safe”. In those times, I got comfortable and complacent. I got into a daily routine that did not involve staying constantly aware of temptations and spiritual opportunities around me. I left myself vulnerable to making mistakes because I wasn’t paying attention to potential dangers around me. This led to serious problems that should have been a call to vigilance. And at times they were, but those periods of vigilance were all too brief. It never took very long for me to slip back into complacency.
As I examine my life, now that I have unfortunately made many serious mistakes, I realize that Satan will NEVER stop trying to get me. He will NEVER stop tempting me, or tricking me, or lying to me. He will NEVER leave me alone on my path to returning to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. That teaches me a valuable lesson. If I am ever feeling spiritually comfortable to the point that I don’t think I’m currently facing any temptations, or that I’m not having any spiritual challenges at the time, that is a big warning sign that I’m not being vigilant enough. Since Satan will always be “walking about, seeking whom he may devour”, if I’m not seeing it, that may just mean I’m not noticing how Satan is working on me in the moment, or maybe I’m not recognizing the lie that he is currently telling me. If I’m not vigilant enough to always be watching for the opposition, I will likely not be prepared to defend myself against it.
Vigilance for me comes through reading the scriptures and the words of the prophets who can warn us specifically what to look for. Vigilance for me means repeatedly reading certain scriptures — such as Alma 5 — so I can constantly test whether or not I am on my spiritual path. Vigilance for me comes from frequently talking to Heavenly Father about how my life is going and asking Him to guide me to areas I need to improve.
As I continue to try to find ways to stay vigilant when it comes to my physical safety, I pray that I can pay even more attention to my spiritual vigilance and come closer to where Heavenly Father wants me to be.