Let Him Say So
The scars are still on my forearms—and always will be. Stark white parallel slashes just below my elbow. I usually wear my sleeves at about three-fourths length to hide them. Tanning doesn’t hide them. They stand out more the deeper my tan gets.
I got the scars early in my incarceration. I was new to the system and not able to recognize the signs something was wrong. I was alone in the shower, and then I wasn’t. There was no time to think. A demand was made. I refused. I bled.
The details are mental snapshots: a rough knife glistening, red-colored water flowing, a gripping fear and desperation. Adrenaline kicked in as I struggled to keep the knife away. Knees and elbows were everywhere. The knife fell and bounced before sliding across the white tile. And then it was over.
Just because we give ourselves to Jesus doesn’t mean our lives will be milk and honey—especially if you’re incarcerated. My heart was full of the Lord, but I was still locked up. Even after I had a significant reawakening in my life with the Lord, I was just a “number” bound for prison. Each morning, I arose from my thin mattress—placed on the cold concrete floor—and prepared to fight for my breakfast tray. It was either that or starve.
We all have troubles. In prison or in life, we have to contend with a fallen world. However, Jesus also said, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Paul the apostle knew a thing or two about troubles and said, “For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
Regardless of what troubles you face, keep your eyes on the joy to come. And remember, Jesus has overcome this world for us.
Let Her Say So
My first experience in the backseat of a patrol car was a rear-view perspective with blurred images of a world I knew nothing about. I couldn’t make sense of it.
When my siblings and I were very young, my mom left us alone in a Florida trailer park. She needed a vacation. After a couple days, our neighbor called the authorities. We were busted.
In the 1970s, sensitivity training for men in law enforcement probably didn’t exist. The five of us were handled like little jailbirds and booked into a group facility.
That childhood scene played out in my mind the day I left prison. I had one final charge to face, and two officers from that jurisdiction came to give me a ride. Once again, my view of the world was from the back window of a squad car.
Along the way, they stopped at a fast food restaurant for lunch. As I was shuffled toward the restroom in chains, people held their gaze. I saw curiosity, judgment, and contempt. Each expression said I was a rogue—unworthy to be in their presence.
This isn’t all I am! I didn’t do anything . . . recently, I thought. I wondered if I’d ever stop paying a price for my past. Remaining silent was difficult. Somewhere in the moment, I escaped behind a spirit of equanimity and held my head high.
As prison ministers say, we don’t go through anything Jesus hasn’t endured. How sad to think of Him being displayed as a condemned man. Jesus knew suffering and expected more of it. He warned His disciples of pending trouble so they’d be at peace when it arrived.
Staying in the Word throughout my incarceration helped me prepare for trouble. My trouble wasn’t like the disciples’, but Jesus was the same source of strength and hope for me. Through my guilt and consequences, He was there. When I was consumed with fighting for the injustices of this world, He understood.
I don’t have all the answers I want. I don’t know why children have to suffer or why the indigents of society go to prison more than others. Life’s not always fair. I do know I couldn’t have been content without God.
When we put the Lord first in life, it doesn’t matter where we are. We have a rear view that is out of this world: peace.
(Photo courtesy of pixabay.)
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