319 | The Joy of the Lord Is My Strength

February 23, 2014
Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
Letter #319: The Joy of the Lord Is My Strength

Dear Family,

I’ve been Joe’s cellie for just about two months now, and he just commented on how he finds it so remarkable that I’m always happy. He said he’s never had a cellie that isn’t constantly getting drunk or high on drugs—and despite the chemical help, they weren’t as joyful as me. Of course, I know this is because of the joy God puts in my life when I’m following my purpose and calling, but it also involves a bit of something I call, “The Butterfly Effect.”

You know those caterpillars have to go through quite the struggle to get out of their cocoon—a struggle that strengthens the wings of the butterfly they become. If the cocoon gets ripped open early, the butterfly’s wings don’t get a chance to develop fully and are too weak to take on the world.

Well, this incredible story, with all of its potential parallels to my life in prison and whatnot has absolutely nothing to do with what I’m referring to as my own “Butterfly Effect.” It’s all about the expressions of my personality, me in a literal cocoon, and a butterfly tattoo. Let me explain.

I’ve changed a lot since coming to prison. I’m more humble, more educated, more missions-minded, and a better leader. But my personality hasn’t changed. I don’t fit in here, and I’m not about to try anytime soon:

  • Playing basketball last week, I stole the ball, ran a fast break down court, and finished with a shot from free throw range between my legs, making it.
  • During count time a month ago, I “hid” from officers by crouching in the middle of my cell on the floor, under my blanket. Yes, in plain sight.
  • When Valley Fever and the Bird Flu prevented us from having any visitors for a month in California, I saw a guy with his shirt off on the yard and flicked water on his back as I faked a loud sneeze. Note: do not try this at home. Inmate may become extremely enraged and hostile.
  • I performed my “slow jump” form of trick levitation for an older nurse and got thrown out of the medical facility by the officer for “flirting.”

These are just a few examples, of course. Those of you long-time readers may recall other such escapades. Recently, as I was waiting in Medical in a back holding cell, I got bored. I was supposed to meet with the Gang Unit, so I thought they may ask me if I have any tattoos or known gang affiliations. Besides answering, “Not yet,” I wanted to give them a little extra, so while I waited, I drew a butterfly on my ankle, under my sock.

When the Super Serious gang guy arrived, I got so wrapped up in the interview, I forgot to mention my “tattoo” work and Butterfly Gang affliction. I returned to my pod, and later that evening, some guy was talking with Joe and mentioned how different I look from them, as they are both heavily tattooed. Unfortunately for that guy, he mistakenly said something about me having no tattoos.

“Well, true, except for that little butterfly on my ankle,” I said. They both thought I was kidding, until I whipped out that bad boy for all to see. <SHOCKED>

Joe says that because I’ve never tried alcohol or drugs, I’ll probably be “one of those people who end up dying of old age.”  Gee, thanks for making a great decision sound morbid. I’m fine with eventually dying; I just plan to enjoy the life God has given me in the meantime. The caterpillar has emerged, stronger for the journey I’ve been on, now transformed into a beautiful moth. Or butterfly. Or whatever.

February 28 marks the end of six years on this fifteen-year journey, so I’ll need a few more butterfly moments to get through it with my God-given personality intact.

Next project: Joe and I are planning to hang up our “bathroom divider curtain” sheet during count time, and then get behind it, with the sock puppets we’ve made out of old socks and Sharpie markers, and talk to the officers as they come by. The Butterfly Effect should help them to see the joy of the Lord in us.