195 | Change of Tune

October 13, 2011
Thursday, 5:00 p.m.
Letter #195: Change of Tune


Dear Family,

My, how rapidly things do change! Just when our plans seem to be progressing nicely, something crazily different comes up and switches everything up. What was moving along predictably changes abruptly, and we’re left scrambling to make sense of it all and to manage the best we can until we can fully understand, and even thrive with, the change.

After not even a week of being my cellie, Phillip was taken to a special classification hearing. Department of Corrections people informed him that he’d be transferred back to California within the next couple of weeks. We had expected his transfer to be sometime in May or June, since he paroles in July. This news hit me hard, because there is so much training I’d still like to give Phillip.

One guy was taken off the transfer list because he’d just received a write-up for wearing a hat in our dining hall. Phillip and I discussed why we don’t believe that disobeying authorities is the best way to get something accomplished, no matter how good the cause! It was just difficult to see how God could be in this change—which seemed to be simply a wrench in the smoothly-running machinery of our goals.

After all, we’d left the move in God’s hands … I’d determined to keep my stinky cellie until he left, and he left months early … I’d asked to move in with Phillip, accepted the lengthy delay, then had received special permission to move when no other guys were moving … and now, after only a few short days of intense studies and training, we get word that he’ll be transferred soon?!? It all is a bit confusing. Why would God help us head in one direction that we felt was best toward reaching the purposes and goals He’s given us, only to just appear to take a completely different path now? Well, I can’t say that I have the answer quite yet, but I do have an analogy that God gave me that helped me understand how it is possible that I may not be able to see the entire picture or know the complete fullness of God’s plans for my life:

In music, a moving tone pattern can be described as a melody. Add another tone alongside it, and a harmony is born that brings color and depth to the original tone or tones. However, all basic chords are comprised of at least three tones. Adding that third tone brings into focus exactly which chord is being played. For example, if a C and E are being played, adding a G makes a C chord. Add an A instead, and you have an A minor chord. The tone between a G and an A—G# or Ab—would make the chord become an altogether different one, called C augmented.

The point? It is easy to assume, given a limited set of tones, which chord is being played, but we can only be certain when that third tone is added in. Similarly, it is easy to assume, given a limited set of circumstances or information, what direction God may be headed within our lives. However, we can only truly be certain, once the entire chord of His divine plan has played out in us, what that music was, where the melody was headed, and what beautiful symphony He was at work creating in us. It is not for us to question the artistic capabilities of our Master Musician, but simply to take up our instrument and play for His glory.

So, the possibility of Phillip—my best friend here—leaving for California is not a pleasant-to-consider possibility. Change is often unpleasant in anticipation: we naturally fear the unknown. It’s not fun to realize that our contact will be limited to letters (as it is with so many great guys I’ve developed friendships with while incarcerated), until next July, when we’ll at least be able to talk over the phone. Then, it’ll take another act of God for Phillip to gain approval to visit me in prison.

But I’m not worried, sad, or disappointed about any of that, for I serve a great God who has my best interests at heart, and He always seems to have a better perspective on things than I do. After all, if it had been up to me, He gently reminds me, I would still be in California, stuck in a tiny cell with no freedom to leave except for some meals and yard two or three times a week, with the phones located on the yard—no calling home whenever I want. I like God’s plan best. And someday, I’ll look back and hear this beautiful melody God was writing in me for His glory.