September 8, 2011
Thursday, 3:30 p.m.
Letter #190: Liking the Spanking
When I was quite young, my mom would correct me for poor table manners by getting me down from the table and taking me aside privately for a spanking. Gratefully, I’ve outgrown the spanking portion of the interchange, though I still do receive gentle reminders to use manners, even during visits.
Years ago, friends or extended family members witnessing my removal from the table would comment, “You’re not going to spank that sweet boy, are you?” to which my wise mother would respond, “How do you think he got to be sweet?” No matter that spankings were so carefully and lovingly administered—I disliked them. Even veterinarians gently hold the sick animal’s head as they administer their lethal dose of chemicals. You think the puppy with the sad eyes likes it? Not one bit! In later years, I’d try my best SPCA sad-puppy eyes look on my mom to try to get out of spankings. She, like a professionally trained veterinarian, simply administered the correct dosage.
Well, I lived. And, every day I’m reminded about how grateful I am for parents, even and especially for parents who corrected me. So many guys here have no common courtesies or manners. No “please” or “thank you,” and no respect of authorities unless the authority gives respect first. This being more often the norm here, someone with my upbringing is usually the exception.
The difference being so pronounced, I often have staff and correctional officers—from medical personnel to unit management, from lowest security team members working on the yard to the upper brass—asking me what I ever did to end up in prison. Three asked me just this week, and I know for a fact that others here don’t get asked except occasionally. I’m used to it by now, and I use it as a great opportunity to share openly about my mistakes then talk about my gratefulness for what God is doing in my life today. It seems to surprise the staff that someone like me, with a supportive family, great attitude, and passion for God, could ever choose to wind up in prison. I explain how God is using this experience to bring me close to Him again—His carefully and lovingly administered “spanking.” Discipline? I still dislike it, but these days, it’s easier for me to see God’s purpose, making me back into that “sweet boy” my mom knows.
I had a great time with my mom this past weekend at visit. With three days and a combined 16 hours of time together, I sure get to spend some quality time with my visitors! I love laughing, praying, and encouraging each other. (Occasional tears show up, too, but usually for happy reasons.)
This visit, my mom brought one of my friend’s wife, Rachel, with her. Her husband, Jacob, is one of the guys I’ve been discipling every week, helping him set priorities and goals for his life. He’d sadly been neglecting his marriage, and so we’d been working at ways to build up his wife, pray for her, and encourage her. Jacob began writing to her once a week (up from once a month!), praying for her specific needs daily, and encouraging her on their phone calls. I helped him get a cheaper way to call her for 40% what they were paying, and Jacob began reading books to develop his spiritual walk and his marriage. His cellie immediately noticed a change and began praying with him for Jacob’s wife and kids, counseling him on how to encourage his wife.
Being that this visit would enable Jacob and Rachel to spend lots of quality time together, I was excited to hear how it went—and I couldn’t be happier! I know several of you have been praying for the men I minister to, including Jacob, and it really means a lot to me. His wife gushed to my mom about how much Jacob has changed. He is kind to her with his words, thoughtful in his actions, and she feels cherished by him due to his investment of time into her. They looked adorable getting a picture taken together, and I’m excited to see further evidence of a God who turns bad situations into opportunities and failures into successes.
Now Jacob and I are focusing on his relationships with his children—who will be visiting with him this weekend. We don’t always get to see the results of our labor for God. Some plant, some water, some reap. It is God who gives the increase. It is just nice when He lets us catch a brief glimpse of what He’s up to, that it would encourage us to keep serving, keep praying, keep lifting others up who need the strength we have.
Thank you for all your faithful love, prayers, and support. You are God’s love to me!