Just Keep Showing Up
A few weeks ago, a young man named “Larry” walked into our classroom at a prison where we teach Lessons for Life. When he saw me, he held out his hand and greeted me with a big smile and a hearty handshake.
“I saw the announcement of your group posted in our pod, and I couldn’t wait to get down here and tell you my story,” he said.
One day I was parked on the street with a police car in front of me and one in back. They promised that all they wanted to do was talk to me. I was on parole, but I had a gun, and I knew as soon as they found it, I would be locked up again for a long time. I decided to make a run for it, so I drove my car into the police car in front of me, rammed the one behind me, and fled the scene. I was able to get away to a friend’s place, get some money he owed me, borrow a car, and then we left the state. It wasn’t too long though before we were pulled over for a problem with the license plate.
We might have gotten away with a warning if we hadn’t been smoking marijuana, but the officer smelled it as soon as I rolled down the window and asked us to step out so he could search the car.
I thought over my options as I got out. I knew he was going to find plenty of evidence in the car to take me in. I also knew once he ran my license, he was going to find out about the warrant for my arrest as well. I guess I could have pulled out the gun and done something really stupid with it, but I suddenly knew that nothing was ever going to get any better the way I was going, and I was done running.
As the officer took out the cuffs, I opened my coat, showed him the gun, and told him I wanted to cooperate. He took it, held it in his hand, and stared at it for what seemed like forever. Then he looked up at me and said,
“You could have done anything to me you wanted while I was searching your car. You could have shot me and left me for dead, but you didn’t. Thank you. Thank you for not using the gun. Thank you for letting me go home tonight to my wife and kids. I still have to arrest you, but this gun is not going to be a part of it.”
Once I was back in county jail, I was facing a dozen or more different charges. They had me over a barrel. Almost as a joke, they offered me a plea agreement of ninety years. I told them there was no way I would agree to that, so I took it to trial. Of course, I was found guilty on all counts, but because the officer had not included gun possession in my list of crimes, I was only sentenced to three years.
Two years ago, a pastor from your church by the name of Guy McIntyre came to visit me in jail. I didn’t know anything about Jesus, and I didn’t know who or why this person came to see me. He started telling me his story and then about God. He told me that God had a plan for my life. Then he prayed with me. A few days later, he sent me a copy of your book. Your story touched my life. Then Guy sent me a Bible. I grabbed hold of it and have not let go since... and I never will. God changed my life. I’m not the gangster I used to be. I am a new man in Christ, and I am so blessed to meet you. Thank you, and thank Pastor Guy.
After the class was over and I was driving home, I couldn’t help but reflect on Larry’s story and how God had worked in his life, and how Guy and I were given the opportunity to be a part of that miracle. What stood out most prominently was the fact that Guy and I really didn’t do much, and that it was God doing all the heavy lifting. He worked in Larry’s heart to not use the gun to escape; He worked in the heart of the police officer to make things easier on Larry; He had Guy go to the jail, pray with Larry, and give him my book and a Bible; He had me write a book years ago that I had no clue as to how He would use it. But from putting all these pieces together, and all of us being obedient, God was able to transform a man’s heart and life.
I used to think that ministry involved some kind of special talent or insight or method. But the longer I do this the more I see it is basically a matter of remaining available and faithfully doing simple things like going to jails with a Bible.
Thank you for your continued prayers and financial support.