Lesson Behind Bars

The man walked into the jail with a swagger I had come to know well and love even more. One look at my friend and most everyone knows his story of his sold innocence. 

Drug dealer. Anyone who has spent even an hour around someone who wears that authority knows what to look for. The six-foot, 265 pound giant wears the identity with a secure pride; even while in stripes.

“Hi, Sweetheart,” he mumbled as he leaned in for his typical half handshake, half hug and pat on the back. I’ve known him for two years, but because of the tears we’ve shared over his choices, I feel like I’ve known him all my life. 

He knows how to play with people, but early on he shockingly exclaimed that he felt I was better at his game than he was. I’ve never figured out what to do with that proclamation, but his misconception of my “skill” has led him to a blunt, raw honesty he doesn’t seem to give too many people. You watch your back when you’re incarcerated. You trust no one.

“Have they sentenced you yet, Bud?”

“I know I’m serving 20 years. Don’t know when they’ll send me down State. I’m here for a while, Doll. I’m just ready to get my answers.”

He half-heartedly traced the words Holy Bible on the book he held in front of him. I knew he was thinking about his kids. 20 years was long enough to be written out of his kids’ lives. 

“Does that Book mean anything to you, Bud? Or is this just a quick fix to get good behavior written on your record and five years erased off of prison time?” I choked back tears as I asked the question.  In the last two years, I’d seen a change in the man that took my breath away, but I also knew the attractiveness of saying the right things to pull the right strings. I wasn’t stupid enough to take his proclamation of faith in Jesus blindly. The realization that he could possibly still be playing me like a fiddle comes to mind every time I sit down to talk with him.

“Cass, I’m good at drug dealin’. The guy I learned my stuff from used to tell me the Golden Rule was to ‘Sell, Don’t Consume.’ I got blastedly good at knowing enough to sell my stuff and get my money, but I rarely took a hit. Jesus is different, though. I have to consume Him before I can ‘sell’ Him to someone else. This Book means everything to me; it gives me Jesus.”

It’s a humbling thing to be convicted by something a prisoner says. How many times do I try and, as my friend put it, ‘sell’ (share) Jesus to a nonbeliever yet forget to ‘consume’ His truths, love and intimacy for myself? How many times do I try my hardest to impact people like this gentleman with the Gospel without first letting the Gospel impact me?

Oh, may it never be.



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