David and I have known each other since we were kids. I knew him when we were school kids in Jackson, Missouri. Dave was in high school. I was in junior high. He was a grade or two ahead of me. We weren't close. We knew some of the same people. We hung from time to time.
A year or so after we first meet, David and I found ourselves in very similar situations. We were both street kids, trying to make it on our own, doing what we thought we had to to survive. The streets of Cape Girardeau knew many young men like us in those days. We all got there in different ways and by different paths, but still got there nonetheless.
Sadly, years later, David and I would both find ourselves in the confines of Missouri's maximum security prison system. For many of our years, we both lived behind the old Wall. When I was released, we were both living in the new Jefferson City Correctional Center.
When we were kids, we were both typical kids trying to figure out life. By the time I was released, we were both Christians and leaders in the rapidly growing church we attended together. I had been in the church for awhile and had become an established leader over the years when David gave his life to Christ. David was a young leader. A month or so ago, I was told, by a volunteer who attends church services in the prison, that David's been doing great and is doing his best to fill the leadership void created when I left. Amazing!
God's grace is amazing!
A week or so ago, a friend of mine called. While we were talking, he gave the phone to David. He just so happened to be walking by while the other man was talking to me. We didn't talk long. The entire conversation lasted maybe 3 minutes. He shared with me his excitement for what God had done for me. He thanked me for leaving him some worship he had really wanted me to give him while I was still in. He had hungered for it so thoroughly. I really had no choice...lol. It was something. No longer in the same place, we both just encouraged each other. It was nice.
He has a life sentence. He recently went up for parole and was given a 2 year set back rather than the usual 5 given to men with murder cases. He shared his gratefulness for what was given. He could have complained, but he didn't. It's attitudes like his that offer perspective. He could have complained. He didn't. He could have made the conversation about himself. He didn't.
God has really brought David to a new place. He has touched and changed his heart.
Every once in a while, the reality of what happened to me weighs heavy. Often it's during the early morning ours. From time to time, it creeps in when I'm out socially. It's happened in the evening when I've found myself alone.
It's not always the same. Sometimes it gives me strength to push on. Other times, it tends to cripple me. The crippling moments use to accompany mixed thoughts of self and others. Sometimes they still do. This time, I just couldn't think about David and the others without feeling overcome with weakness.
I listened to Jason Upton's "Peace". I got sick to my stomach. I cried. I prayed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9ZaZE0B8MY&feature=related
The visions I began to have of these men living faithful lives for our Lord and serving each other and loving God in selfless worship was just too much for me. I started to see faces. I began to reflect. I saw them as if they were the singers of Upton's song and the one's being spoken to by our Lord. And I cried.
There's a story to be told within the individual histories I have with the brothers I left behind. Over time, I'll share details about many of them. I just wish you could all know them the way I do.
Whether you know their names or not, pray. Whether they are guilty or innocent, pray. Whatever the crime, pray. Love them and pray. They're your brothers in Christ. Pray.