The Marvelous Wisdom of God
A Personal Reflection by Jim
"Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth, shall you not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert." (Isaiah 43:19)
The chill in the air was no match for the cold terror that gripped me as I entered the receiving area for Staton prison. Chain link fences with razor wire and locked gates now kept me separated from the life I knew. This new, unfamiliar world loomed over me as an invisible "Goliath" taunting me with fear and bone crushing despair.
Arriving at my assigned dorm felt like entering "the valley of the shadow of death," all my senses were absorbed in the reality of my situation. I realized it is possible for a man to know in his heart he is not forsaken, yet be unable to shake the feeling that he is, indeed. I placed my few belongings in a small drawer beneath the bunk and sat down on the thin mat covering the steel bottom. Looking around for a friendly face or kind voice I found only intimidating stares from the other inmates. Although I was surrounded by several hundred men, there was an overwhelming loneliness in my heart.
While I knew the Lord was with me, I was exhausted, frightened and uncertain of the future. I did not know God had begun a process that would become a remarkable spiritual journey, teaching me how to love generously, receive love graciously, and appreciate others. In an environment in which virtually no love exists, God would enable me to understand that it is the giving of love rather than receiving of it, which truly satisfies the heart.
This story is about the amazing grace of God, some very imperfect prisoners, and a handful of Christian men committed to enriching lives that most have disregarded. There are some deeply flawed men among us who have made grievous mistakes, committed awful crimes, who failed miserably at living in harmony with man's and God's laws. But their story is our story. We are all sinners, redeemed by Jesus Christ through his sacrifice and by faith have become member of his body. Day by day we are being transformed by his spirit and the truth of his word rejoicing that our sins have been forgiven. While our future holds eternal glory, our present life is being lived out in a furnace of affliction. It is into this furnace that a small group of men have come to share God's love and heart changing power to bring positive permanent changes in our lives. They teach, exhort, listen, encourage and demonstrate the love of Jesus to us!
There is an attitude of suspicion that permeates prison life, making the task of turning casual acquaintances into true friends very daunting. Being accepted and sharing experiences that help create spiritual unity is a real challenge. This is where "The Pathway To Freedom" has met a real need promoting spiritual unity, while teaching us life changing truths. We listen, learn, and engage with one another in ways that are breaking down barriers and leading to Christian maturity. The path has been rocky on occasions but we know God has a plan to direct us according to his will and just hope that, perhaps, we will catch a glimpse of his glory. My prayer is that his truth will change our hearts in a great way bringing glory to him.
For me this story began fourteen months ago on that chilly March morning, when I entered Staton exhausted, fearful, broken, and all alone. I had no idea God would make me apart of this program along with others for my benefit and his purpose. We are pioneers' in helping lay the foundation for this ministry for those who will come after us. It is a high calling, which will require grace, love, forbearance, and prayer. With the Lord's help we will triumph, standing with unity and purpose, "for with God nothing shall be impossible." Although we have just begun this journey there is much hope and joy in our hearts. Difficulties are sure to arise but the Lord shall give us wisdom to meet them. You may be tempted to question such optimism in a prison environment; the best response is from God himself, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrew 11:1)