October 6, 2010
Wednesday, 9:00 p.m.
Letter #154: I Am A Thief
This letter is tough for me to write, so please bear with me. I appreciate each one of you so much.
It is my constant intention that this method of communicating with you be as transparent as possible. I would like for my letters to always be uplifting to your day, a motivator to “love and good works,” an eye-opener for prayer targets, and a blessing as you hear of your answered prayers. I wish they could be letters of wit and wisdom, carefully crafted to make you smile—and think. But the stark reality is, I am a man who needs prayer, and if I do not accurately portray the inner workings of my heart, how can I expect you to “bear [my] burdens” to God’s throne? And more, how can I expect to affect lasting change in my life if I do not want others to see the failures within?
So, this letter becomes a kind of journal of my walk with God, along with all its successes and, of course, the failures, embarrassing as they are. My aim, always, is that Christ be glorified.
I am a thief. As you know, I have a very simple job serving food three times a day, and I am paid accordingly: $0.11/hour. My supervisors, pleased with my performance, just gave me a 30% raise (nearly unheard of in most businesses!) to 14 cents per hour.
The greatest benefit of the job, however, is not the extravagantly lavish pay, but the secondary perk of heaping portions of leftover food—often 2x–4x the standard fare, or more—which we as line servers could help ourselves to, within reason. Living off of two meals, I’d give away a loaded-up tray of food each day to someone different in my pod (I’ve given three trays to each guy—120 trays total), blessing all.
Every morning, we were allowed two milk cartons each, a double portion. The other line servers would all sneak extra food or milks under their trays when the guards were not watching. The old sin nature in me, which loves to be sneaky, started rising up. I discovered that, by wearing sweat pants tucked into the tops of my socks and then my blue uniform over the top, I had a large kangaroo-type device for acquiring milks, built-in. I’d tuck my shirt into the waistband of my sweat pants, so that I could easily slide my hand down my stomach and into the top of my waistband, opening it to receive milks.
I got really good at it, making sure no one was watching and timing it so the all-seeing guards above me in the control booth were distracted by a door being opened or such.
Not every inmate comes out for breakfast, so we’d usually have lots of milks leftover—sometimes nearly 100. I justified taking the milks as being “leftovers,” though I knew I’d never asked permission to have them. I enjoyed the thrill—the adrenaline rush—of sneaking, and though I knew I’d most likely get caught, that just made the heist all the more thrilling. I bypassed warnings from my cellie and even my parents as I tried to convince them I was doing nothing wrong. All was well.
Walking back towards my pod with my loaded tray in my hands, I was stopped by an officer, who asked me what was in my legs, since I was walking funny. My fun was over. I pulled out seven milk cartons from my pant legs.
The guards were shocked, the head one shaking his head and saying, “Wow. You, of all people.” I was so embarrassed, my reputation damaged.
I slunk back to my pod and went into my cell as soon as I could. I had to get away. God was tugging on my heart, so I opened His Word to the Proverb for that day—Proverbs 30. In it, it describes stealing as blaspheming God’s Holy Name.” Ouch. That hurt me to the core.
I’m proud of the fact that I’ve never swore or used profanity. Ever. And yet, God was tenderly showing me how my actions made Him feel. This was not so much about milks as it was about dishonoring God. It wasn’t my little reputation that had been damaged. It was all about His reputation.
I know that, throughout my life, I’ve tried to do the bare minimum to make problems go away. If caught, I’d apologize, be extremely sorry, and change my ways … for a while. But the allure of doing what I shouldn’t do would always seem to come rushing back. This time, I’m determined to let God have His way with me, to do a deep work and figure out why it is that I’m still doing this “sneaking” thing—the same activity, at its heart, that put me here.
What followed is a long story, one that is still ongoing. I’ll share updates with you as I go through it. The short version is I resigned my job (though my boss tried to convince me to stay), took a pay cut, confessed to each of the staff members working in my unit, began counseling and accountability with an older godly man in my pod, and met with the chaplain to offer my resignation (I’ll be meeting with him and the elder board later to make a determination if I should continue or step down and whether to let the congregation know … which I’ve been doing one-on-one already).
Please pray … I need to seek God, that He would show me all areas of unconfessed sin. It’s a long process, but I need heart change. Thank you.
I love you all!