February 15, 2013
Friday, 4:00 p.m.
Letter #264: A Prisoner Set Free!
I’m overwhelmed with all kinds of emotions right now! I’ve just sat with pen in hand for an hour, trying to figure out how to convey what I feel, yet unable to start this letter. Because of the subject matter, I will have to be vague in parts, but I still wanted you to know about the biggest blessing I’ve ever received.
I’ve written many times before about the process I’ve gone through (and encourage others here to go through) to face the wrongs I committed and to deal with them. The first few stages are natural and can be done easily: Regret, Remorse, and Repentance.
Years before coming to prison, I dealt with these facets of my sin. The first two were natural feelings, and the response of repentance was purely the Holy Spirit working on me. Repentance is also an ongoing process, besides the one-time “turning from” that it implies.
The next part in the process is Rehabilitation, which deals with a renewed mind and heart. The state does nothing to help with this, which is why I’m constantly working on this area myself.
It’s the last phase of the process that I have no control over whatsoever: Restoration. God may choose to let some things be restored to me (my family and great friends, for example) but withhold others from me for my own good. The hardest part of this process is knowing I’ve offended people yet not being allowed by the court system to contact them, to let them know how sorry I am.
I’ve looked into ways to express my regret and remorse to my two victims, but I have not been able to find any means to do so. So, I left that situation in God’s hands. If it would be beneficial to them or to their families for me to apologize and give them an opportunity to vent their anger and hurt, He would arrange it. I dropped the idea.
Then, this past October, one victim’s family let my parents know that they love me and hope I’m well, something they’d expressed before my incarceration and during the past five years as well. Additionally, they asked help for a project they were working on, and they thought my advice would be useful.
I was floored. I knew I couldn’t just send ideas without first addressing how I’d wronged their family. I cried out to God and sent letters of apology to the parents and young woman I’d offended. I also sent a dozen pages of notes to help with the project, praying something might be useful.
I felt so unworthy—like I’d thrown a rock through their front window—and then they invited me over to discuss their backyard landscaping. I waited, and unbelievably, the family told my parents to let me know that of course they fully forgave me and to please tell me how grateful they were for all the information I’d sent that was so helpful to them.
What?!? Is this really happening to me?!?
It didn’t stop there. They asked if I could arrange to call them on Christmas Day so they could talk to me. You have no idea how I felt … so nervous, humbled by God’s amazing grace that had just been dumped all over me by this family.
I called on Christmas Day and was given an extraordinary gift: after inquiring about my well-being and again thanking me for my help (!), they said they had a song they wanted to sing for me. And unbelievably, coming through the phone came the sound of angels singing Matthew West’s song, “Forgiveness,” which says in part: It’ll clear the bitterness away; it can even set a prisoner free. There is no end to what its power can do. So let it go and be amazed by what you see through the eyes of grace—the prisoner that it really frees is you … forgiveness, forgiveness. It took me to the foot of the cross, where my forgiveness was bought at great cost. I am humbled and blessed.
With love from a prisoner set free!