I could not help but think of the inmates we had left behind. Once they had all been free. Due to bad choices they found themselves confined to prison. Like a bird in a cage. It is my prayer that once the inmates regain their freedom, they too will find rest, regain their strength and then stretch their wings. I wish for them to become successful in their family units and in the workforce. I wish for them a deep and abiding faith. Not necessarily my faith or church, but a faith and house of worship of their own choosing that will sustain them and ‘bring them home’.
Our son will be released from prison in less than a month. The above incident occurred when our son was imprisoned the first time. This is his second incarceration. Like any parent, I have concerns. Genuine concerns. I find that just like that little bird I sometimes struggle intently with an issue or problem. Worry creeps in as I try to find my way back out. Mostly, I have control issues. Before long, I am tired and exhausted.
In our church office, we provide bus passes free of charge to anyone who asks. They only have to provide us with a picture I.D. We explain to them they may get another pass in seven days. We have a number of regulars who come in to get a bus pass.
It is interesting the people and personalities we come into contact with. We purchase 115 passes per month. Some are grateful for the pass and express their thankfulness. Some expect to have a pass and are angry when we run out. Some insist they should have a pass whenever they want one and not wait a week. Some want a pass without providing us with a picture I.D. I am sure there are others who get the free pass then sell it to support their drug habit.
It is obvious a number of these folks are homeless. You can tell by the lack of grooming and... well the odor. Some are very well kept in their appearance and could probably afford the ticket themselves, but we provide it with no questions asked.
With all this description I'm providing have you noticed something? I have. I am making a judgment of sorts on the person or persons. It comes down to the fact that each person has a story. A story that is as unique to them as they are as an individual.
One such man who is a regular left us an envelope a week ago. I gave the contents a cursory glance and then we all discussed its contents. It was his biography, more accurately his autobiography. Not being sure he meant to leave it, we held onto the item knowing he would return in a week.
When he arrived this week, I had to explain that we were out of bus passes and then picked up the envelope and said, "You left this behind last week..." he nodded in the affirmative, so I said, "You wanted us to have this?" He again nodded in the affirmative. No, he didn't say anything verbally, he had stage four cancer of his larynx and had it removed, followed by radiation and chemo therapy. I smiled at him and said, "thank you." Then sat down to read his bio in its entirety.
He explained about his Godly parents, his adolescence, his rebellion, being in and out of juvenile facilities and mental institutions. He described his travels, Viet Nam, and his homelessness which lasted up to his diagnosis of cancer. He then explained in great detail how God was with him through all of this and ended his three page handwritten document with, "The PET scan has shown that I am completely and totally cancer free! GOD DON'T PLAY!" and signs off, Yours in Christ.
This man was born the same year as I. He has virtually been homeless since he was 15 years old. When he became ill, he made his peace with God and reckoned he would die as he didn't have the funds for medical treatment. Imagine his surprise when family tracked him down, took him home, helped him get his credentials and clothing, then took him for medical treatment.
He does have an electrolarynx for the purpose of speaking, but didn't use it this week. Perhaps the batteries ran out. I hope that's the reason and that someone didn't steal it from him.
After reading his "story" I made a copy of it then I took the original to the Senior Pastor. I'll hold onto my copy. I hope my son will read it and see how blessed he is. Perhaps he won't. Nonetheless, this man's testimony was as if one of the ten cured lepers had returned to Jesus to say "thank you."
So, when all my doubts and fears about my son's upcoming release from prison manifest themselves, I can remember the words Paul wrote to the church at Philippi. Instead of being anxious, I can lift my concerns to God in prayer. Not only does God have the answers but also the peace to set me free. He also offers grace… grace for each and every situation.
My son is not mine, per se. He belongs to God. And like the Gentle Man I wrote about above, God will have His way in my son's life. Perhaps not in my time, but it will be in God's time.
Wishing you everyday grace,
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
- Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)