(Note from the author: This article was originally posted in The Oakdale Chronicles on January 31, 2011 while I was still incarcerated at the federal correctional center at Oakdale, LA.)
“For I know the plans I have for you” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” Jeremiah 29:11 NLT
Of course, no man can foretell the future, but the future is certainly a matter of no small consequence to most people, myself included, particularly in light of the fact that society in general paints a pretty bleak picture when it is the future of a felon that is being looked at.
The landscape is bleaker still – barren, even – when the felony is the nature of mine.
“The future” is talked about frequently within these cold, unfriendly walls that are guarded by the ever-present sentinels of chain-link fencing topped with razor-wire (for some reason, perhaps someone’s idea of a twisted joke, razor-wire is called “concertina” wire, but never by the people it protects society from. It is simply too melodic a term, suggestive of dancing and frivolity, neither of which is seen in abundance within its confines).
“Future” talk raises concerns – and rightly so – about what awaits us when that day comes (although never soon enough) when The Gate opens and the dangers, uncertainty, and unreasonably judgmental hostility of prison life are replaced by the dangers, uncertainty and unreasonably judgmental hostility of freedom and society.
Speaking for myself – since I am capable only of that and nothing more – I will again say that I am not as guilty as it would appear in black and white, nor am I as innocent as I wish I were in gray.
That said, it’s from within the confines of the walls and wire that I write this, and here I shall remain until I have paid this part of my debt. The part that will extracted when the gates open and I rush through them will be dealt with when the time comes. Nonetheless, while I cannot deal with that time yet, there are preparations to be made.
How does one prepare for a time that seems a ‘forever’ away? By looking to that future and laying the foundation for it. In here (prison) is where the “reinvented me” needs to be – well – reinvented.
This is the time, and the place where the cornerstone of the future must be laid.
The scripture I quoted at the beginning of this is printed on a card taped above the mirror in my cell. It came to me months ago, with a hand written note from a friend of my sister, someone I have never met. Her name is Diane and, like my sister, also lives in Virginia. The thoughts expressed in her note were encouraging and friendly, but those words printed on the front of the card have been read, thought about, prayed over, and believed since the day I heard my name during mail call and opened the envelope, my mind puzzled about the name I saw on the return address label.
“I know the plans I have for you . . . to give you a future and a hope.”
Powerful words that I felt were being spoken just to me and I have spent hours since then working on the vision, developing the plan, and praying for guidance along the way. I have listened for the answers, and – little by little – the answers have come.
Yes, the answers have come, even if some of them have been painful, which is to be reasonably expected since some of the questions have been painful to the point of tears.
Arguably, there is no task we can take upon ourselves nearly as difficult as being self-critical, and certainly never more true than when there is much to criticize. I mean, let’s face it – I am in federal prison. This isn’t a joke, a dream or a small thing that can be ignored. It certainly isn’t going to go away, I can’t pretend it didn’t happen, and there is only one person who can influence the outcome, and since I want a different outcome, then the same modus operandi cannot be followed, correct?
I’ve tried “sexual immortality, implicitly, lustful pleasures, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outburst of anger, selfishness, dissolutions, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties and other sins like these” (Galatians 5:19-21 NLT).
Yes, I’ve tried all that with no good results – go figure – so I think it is best I try something else.
How about “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?” (Galatians 5:22 NLT).
Common sense would point to the latter being the more fruitful, pleasurable, and profitable road to take.
I stated some time back that I wouldn’t preach to you, and I won’t, but I said I would pray for all of us and I do.
All I can tell you is that there is a future and a hope. And that hope – for me (and, I believe, for you too) – is God and He will pop into the conversation from time to time because – well – because it is necessary.
Shakespeare once wrote, “Had I but served my God with half the zeal I served my king, he would not, in mine age, left me naked to my enemies.”
Or, in other words Mr. Shakespeare, if I had served God as faithfully as I served sin, I would not be sharing my existence with 1400 men kept from the world by walls and wire.