161 | I’m Not Spoiled, Yet

December 5, 2010
Sunday, 6:30 p.m.
Letter #161: I’m Not Spoiled, Yet


Dear Family,

Greetings! I watched CNN’s Larry King Live (barely!) yesterday, because he was interviewing the world’s richest man, with $53.5 billion.

Carlos Slim, a Mexican businessman, spoke candidly and humbly about his upbringing and his parenting strategies with his own six children, three boys and three girls. I found it fascinating that despite the fact that he could have lived in a mansion, his boys all shared a room and bathroom, and his girls all shared another, in a very modest home. He said he wanted his kids to learn to be kind, organized, and content, so they wouldn’t grow up spoiled. What a wise father!

My Heavenly Father has me on a very similar program, and I’m learning to be kind, organized, and content. I fail.

This week, I upset my cellie, Luis. Again. Something having to do with the light, this time, I’m told. Things haven’t been exactly rosy for a while—I’ve had many times that I’ve thought, “This is the last straw! I need to move!” But, in an effort to try to work things out, I would do my best to make peace.

For example, Luis was the guy I wrote about a month ago (Letter #158) who challenged me to fight in the cell. I’m not a huge fan of drama, so I do try not to cause any. But, sad to say, I can be very annoying, it appears. (Well, Mel, my last cellie, was even-tempered like me, so we never even had an argument in the nine months we shared the tiny bathroom in Soledad.)

I love Luis, but our disunity when he snapped a couple days ago was beginning to affect our testimony as Christians in the pod. So, I met with our unit manager, told him I’d like to move to promote world peace, and he was all for it. (I thanked God for granting me favor! What I’ve seen usually take several days or even weeks was granted to me in less than five minutes.) I immediately took all my stuff seven doors down (from JG-102 to JG-109) to move in with a Native American guy, Ronnie, who is also a believer; he had an open bunk since his cellie had just left to go home.

The move is a huge blessing for me, really. Though awkward at first between Luis and me, God quickly restored our great friendship and camaraderie. What Satan would have loved to use as opportunity to discourage us, destroy our testimony for Christ, and make us bitter, God took and used as an opportunity for us to grow, to show how Christians handle tough situations in relationships, and create a solid bond of stronger friendship than ever. Sometimes stepping away from the tension, drama, and pain-producing people in our lives is a necessary thing. Forgiveness? Mandatory, whether asked for or not (no, he hasn’t). Loyalty? Mandatory, whether deserved or not (no, he doesn’t).

It does no good for me to recount in detail all the crazy-horrible things that were said and done, no matter how desperately I want you to feel sorry for me and heave a collective, “Awwh!” on my behalf. The physical separation is what stops the hurtful activities, but it’s not what makes the hurt stop. Only forgiveness can do that, and to forgive is always a choice we make, willing ourselves to forgive, no matter what our feelings are doing. (Usually, they’re not so cooperative.) God will change our hearts as we forgive, then bless those who mistreat us. The blessing them is more unnatural than the forgiveness, because as they say in China, “There ain’t no lovin’ goin’ on.” Southern China, I think. But love is a choice too. So, I have to choose to forgive. Choose to love. Choose to bless.

One guy who I counted as a close friend no longer talks to me and ignores me every day. Why? When passing out Christmas cards, two per inmate, provided by the chapel, I told him he’d have to ask the chaplain for extras. That was two weeks ago. I pray every day that he is blessed with joy and peace in all things. When I am less concerned about my feelings and more concerned with Christ’s feelings about being a peacemaker, about blessing those who curse me, about loving my enemy, then I am truly living as a child of God.

So, like it or not, my Heavenly Father—who has more riches than Carlos Slim and Bill Gates combined—knows exactly what I need, to have godly character develop in my life. It’s a slow, painful process, that often includes sharing a bathroom but He’s promised me He’s got a little something He’s preparing for me. And Luis is gonna have to get used to God leaving the Light on up here.