Taking Responsibility: The First Step to Freedom

     The subject for the night was “The Victim Mentality.” It is part of what we teach in the Lessons for Life Course, and it is always fascinating to me to listen to the perspectives of the students on it every time it comes up. Last Wednesday at the women’s prison was no exception. Most of the ladies understood the importance of taking responsibility for their mistakes, but one of them—who I will refer to as “Cindy”—shared a part of her story that had everyone in the room feeling challenged about it to a greater degree.
     “I was arrested for attempted murder,” Cindy said. “I was facing forty-eight years, and my life was essentially ruined. Obviously, I had a lot of anger and uncontrollable behavior. Yet, God had not given up on me. It was during my time in county jail that I decided to really give my life over to Him, and I began to spend hours reading the Bible and doing the best I knew to surrender completely. 
     “After ten months of fighting the system over my upcoming trial, dealing with an inexperienced court-appointed attorney, and fighting within myself as to the right way to respond, I finally gave up my right to myself and made the difficult decision to do whatever God wanted me to do. Within a very short time, my attorney met with me.
     “‘Cindy,’” she said, “‘I’ve got some really good news. They have no evidence. They cannot prove a thing. Your fingerprints are not on the gun or the bullets or anything tied to the crime. We are going to win. Now you have a choice. We can fight this in court and win—and we will win—or the prosecution is offering you three years in prison if you don’t want to take it to court.’”
     “I’ll take the three years,” Cindy said.
     Cindy said that her attorney was dumbfounded, but she did as she was told and passed the information on to the courts.
     As Cindy stood in front of the judge to make everything official, he asked, “Why did you decide to take the three years?” 
     “During my time in jail I gave my life to God,” Cindy said. “I totally surrendered everything to Him, and if I didn’t take the three years, then I would have been seeking His help while standing for a lie. I did it. I am guilty. Three years is a very gracious consequence, and I see that as a miracle from God. I would rather do three years in prison with a clear conscience than go free and disgrace Him.”
     Needless to say, this story affected everyone in our class in a profound way. It was not only a great testimony of Cindy’s commitment to God, but it really drove home the idea for each of us to take responsibility for our actions, regardless of the cost. 
     Cindy’s story is powerful, but what stood out to me the most was Cindy herself. The sparkle in her eyes, the joy in her voice, and the peace of her disposition spoke volumes as to the personal relationship she has been enjoying since she surrendered all to God. Cindy will be going home soon, but she has been free the entire time she’s been in prison. 
     So often people think that surrender is a sign of weakness or a place of uncertainty. And, until we actually follow through with it, it is a huge step of faith. But once we take that first step and then remain determined to follow through, we find ourselves in just the opposite of where we thought we would be. We are not weak but wise. We are not in uncertainty but safety. There is no safer place than in the center of God’s will and His will is always center when we submit to His ways.  
     Everything God wants us to do is good for us. His ways always bring freedom, even if our location is in prison.