I locked arms with a free man who killed someone over 20 years ago. We weren’t fighting, and I was not in danger. He served 17 years and learned to tell openly about it. He shared his story, and I saw someone many saw and many feared. But I saw his transformation. He came to Christ in one of the harshest prisons in the Midwest. I knew the truth- as did he. He was no longer the man that killed an innocent to solve his anger. He was a man of God. He needed a hug and wanted to pray. How dare I tell a brother no?
He was a big man. I understood why someone would say he was intimidating. He was. But he learned along the way how not to use that “skill” to hurt someone. The man that stood before me was huge, but humble. I told him I saw my Lord in him, and he wept. This man understood the cost of transformation. In order to initiate that transformation, Someone had to die. In this man’s life, two men died before he decided to allow change to take place. Christ shines from his eyes, but for that to happen, an inconceivable price was paid.
I heard his story four times that morning. After the fourth time I approached him and simply said, “You and I are more alike than I want to admit, My Friend.” … Instead of distrust and anger, I got the brightest smile from the giant.
“You have a story people tell you not to tell, don’t you?” He asked. “Have you ever worn a number?”
I unashamedly told him I had not. We then talked about how it’s terrifying to be responsible for a testimony that revolts your loved ones and terrifies strangers. Although no one was afraid of me, I had learned what it was like to be closely linked to someone that others were afraid of, once upon a time. All the sudden when that happens, your story becomes something you fight to hide… And you don’t really care, nor consider, how many times you’ve squelched God from working through you because of it.
Through the course of the discussion, this dear man who was old enough to be my father asked me a pointed question. “Why, Cass? Why didn’t you hide? When the Master called you back, why didn’t you completely forget your (metaphorical) chains? Why do you still identify with them as a redeemed woman?”
Call it being a chicken, I turned the question back on him. “Why didn’t you?” He grinned that Santa-Clause smile again.
“I remember and talk of it because people need to know that there’s nothing too bad for redemption. If God can restore a murderer, he can restore anything. I still grieve for the hundreds of people that paid for my choice. But God restores. I will never deny the thorn in my side of grief, but someone here tonight needed proof that God can do anything.”
He hugged me again, stepped back and said, “Never deny the consequences, Sis. But never deny your story. It’s not your reputation that concerns God. It’s his glory.”
I’ve learned the hardest, most beautiful lessons from the most unlikely person.