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Using Creative Writing to Heal Within Prison

The Enemy’s Lies or God’s Truths

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 1 Corinthians 5:15

*** He held the pages of his story and said, “I am a total screw up.”

I was teaching my creative writing class at Coastal State Prison. We were discussing the concept of “false beliefs” in literature. False beliefs are lies main characters believe about themselves. They are often the result of unhealed pain.

Can you relate? Fictional characters aren’t the only people who wrestle false beliefs. In our very real worlds, we recite our own scripts:

  • I’m not lovable.

  • I’m worthless.

  • I’m trapped.

  • I’m stupid.

  • I have nothing to say.

To battle the lies, I turn to the truth in God’s word. In 2 Corinthians 5:15, the apostle Paul writes “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Paul’s message is for anyone in Christ: the Jew and the Gentile, the Greek and the Roman, the incarcerated and the free.

When Jesus begins a work in us, he’s renewing us from the inside out.

It sounds a lot like Isaiah 43:19: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

God is all about digging us out of the muck and mire of our false beliefs and pouring His truth into our minds.

As I looked around my classroom that day, I wondered if all my students saw themselves as total screw ups. After all, they had been locked up for serious crimes: robbery, drug trafficking, child molestation, rape, and murder. Did they know Jesus had the power to redeem and restore them? To make them new?

I sensed the Holy Spirit nudging me to do an exercise with them. (You can do this, too.) I drew two columns on the board and labeled them “lies” and “truths.”

I asked the men to tell me things they believed about themselves. They said things like “too old,” “not smart enough,” “unlovable,” “unable.” I wrote them in the column labeled lies.

Under truths, I wrote the opposites: not too old, smart enough, worth loving, capable. I looked each of them in the eye and said, “These lies you believe, they’re lies from the enemy. They’re what he uses to hold your mind hostage. But these truths? They are God’s truths for you to set your mind free from the past and give you renewed hope for your future.”

Never confuse who you are — your identity — with what you’ve done, I told them. We’ve all screwed up, but that doesn’t make us total screw ups. It makes us humans in need of a Savior.

I don’t know how the lesson resonated with the men. But I know how it affected me. It reminded me that God is doing a new thing in my life, leading me away from false beliefs and into His restorative truth.

Dear Jesus: I believe You’re doing a new thing in my life. I reject the enemy’s lies about me and lean into Your truth. Help me see myself the way You see me — lovable and worthy. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.


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