October 4, 2012
Thursday, 3:30 p.m.
Letter #245: A Heavenly Exit Strategy
I am reminded each week as I receive notes, letters, cards, or emails (which get printed out and mailed to me by my dad) that I have the most incredible people who love me, support me, and pray for me. Given my circumstances, it is often overwhelming how unworthy I feel for such targeted care.
I am also reminded each week, however, that it isn’t about me. Sure, most of you would say you care about me, and you may even hope I do well or at least “hope he gets the help he needs,” right? (As I have talked at length about the near-total lack of resources for “rehabilitation” here and my ongoing efforts to help myself, I will not digress there now.) But in a bigger sense, my life shouldn’t just be about me, but about my relationship with God—that it be so vibrant, connected to His life-source, that others would be drawn to Him.
This reminder—that my life in Christ should be all about leading others to Him—comes whenever I feel God softening my heart toward those around me. I don’t naturally care; trust me! I get tired of the stupidity and drama and childish antics and rude behavior and lack of change and foul speech—on and on!
But God! He seems to enjoy making sure I have no way other than to talk about Him, sometimes.
What do you mean, “Do you ever resist God’s promptings?” Of course I resist Him! I’m not in prison for consistently listening and obeying God, that’s for sure, and I’m still learning.
This week, however, God ambushed me with an opportunity to speak about Him, and I had no choice but to speak up boldly. I was holding an Exit Strategy meeting with a guy on Friday who has a particularly sad situation he’s dealing with, thanks to his criminal behavior, which ruined his entire family. Since this man is steeped in all kinds of destructive thinking, addictions, and behaviors, his case manager had referred him to me for practical help.
I read his answers on the questionnaire and found hopelessness and despair: Long-Term Housing? “Under a bridge,” he wrote, elaborating on the jobs skills portion that he “lacked the confidence to pursue a job again.”
I began asking about how he has dealt with the shame and regret of his actions, explaining that I am grateful to the Lord, Who has forgiven me and helps me deal with this challenge daily. My fellow inmate said he’d never forgive himself, so I told him how we need God’s forgiveness, not our own.
He said he was sure God had forgiven him and that he’s going to Heaven. I asked for proof, and he said, “Because God separates the good from the bad, so He’ll take the 1% of me that is good to Heaven and leave the 99% behind.”
I hadn’t heard that fairy tale before, so I asked who made it up, and he said, “I made it up!”
“That’s terrible!” I exclaimed. “Do you think it’s a good idea to base your eternal destiny on this made-up idea?” He agreed it wasn’t too smart, especially after I pointed out that his “1% good” number was a bit high, since we don’t naturally do anything good.
I told him about God’s gift of Jesus and his need to repent, but he got defensive and said he’s not really into God. I loaned him a book on overcoming sexual addictions and invited him to a Bible Study.
He returned the book a few days later, having read halfway through it. He didn’t like how much the book talked about depending on God (Pure Desire by Ted Roberts) and said it’s not for him. I was disappointed, though I thank God for the opportunity to care, the opportunity to try to help someone, and the opportunity to learn from this and get better, to more effectively reach out next time.
So, thank you for encouraging me. As God is building me up, I pray I will be open to the ways He wants me to build up those around me. In my great weakness, my great God is strong! I’m blessed by your prayers.