“I’ve spent most of my life behind bars. Many people see me as hard and scary. In some ways I guess I am. Others see me as an unfortunate member of society who fell on hard luck. Still others feel I’m just lazy and find life easier by living off taxpayers’ money in prison. In all honesty, I can’t say I ever met anyone who woke up one day and decided it would be a blessing to spend part of their life in jail.
But for me it was a gift because it was there I became a believer in the risen Christ. Today I live in joy and hope. And I am free in more ways than I can count,” he said.
He was a member of our adult Sunday school class and up to this point no one knew of his past. That day, we were studying forgiveness and gratitude. It was then he chose to share his story.
“You see,” he told us, “as a kid I learned that stealing was okay and using whatever means I could to eat was just a matter of survival.”
No one in the room spoke. I hoped our silence would encourage him to continue speaking. It did.
“The first time I was in jail, I learned very little except how to stay alive and perfect my criminal techniques for when I got outside. I was young and hung on every word uttered by the seasoned offenders.”
He let the hush hang in the room. When he continued, it was his audience hanging on his every word.
“The second time I was imprisoned, for the same type of crime, I was introduced to Jesus Christ and His forgiveness. As I studied and learned of His mercies and promise of a new way to live, I felt something I had never known – gratitude.
Every day when I awoke, I made my way across five feet of cold floor to the small stool and basin in my cell. I began to speak with each step. When I put my right foot down, I said ‘Thank’ and when I put my left foot down I uttered ‘You’.
Soon it became a ritual for me to walk with those two words in my mind and feet throughout my day. ‘Thank you. Thank you.’
This simple act allowed me to weather the harsh prison environment until my release. And today when I get up, I still walk to the bathroom, in my small apartment, with those same steps of gratitude. “
I asked him how he finds life on the outside. He said most days are good, even though he has challenges and roadblocks because of his past decisions. He confessed that many times he is not sure what he needs to do, and is tempted to return to what he once knew as existence options.
“But,” he said, “One thing is for sure. When I remember the sacrifice Jesus made for me so I could live hopeful and free, I can’t help but start my day thanking and praising Him. I’m assured that no matter what or who I meet, if I walk in thankfulness, I’m taking the next right step.”
Copyright January 2020 by Laura L. Padgett
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