June 1, 2014
Sunday, 8:00 p.m.
Letter #333: Difficult Days
I never expected that living in prison for 15 years would be easy. I never hoped prison life would graciously welcome me in and offer me an iced tea, and I certainly never begged God for mercy as I faced the reality of incarceration. And who really wants easy, anyway? Not much is learned from easy, and easy doesn’t make men.
But the fact is, my prison life is easy. With great officers, non-violent inmates, and an abundance of positive programs to take part in, the only difficulty is trying to not become complacent. Settling down to a life of the mediocre and mundane is not what I’ve been created to do, so I resist that here. Gratefully, God, who knows exactly what I need next in my life to get me moving forward, has given me the perfect antidote for combating ease and complacency, and his name is Joe.
Joe is not easy. These past five months with him have been exhausting spiritually and emotionally. I’ve shared much of the victories with you, of course; it is precisely these victories that remind me I’m on the right track. I hope that I’m such a man of character that I’d be willing to selflessly pour out my life into someone else even if the victories never came. But I don’t know. It is nice to see some measure of success, even though the successes are largely spiritual in nature, thus not seen by others. My motivation must remain, that I just want to serve God, used for His purposes, no matter if it is easy, if it is pleasant, if people notice, if it is fun, or if I think I’m good at it or not.
I’ve discovered that I am not good at discipleship. It is a messy, confusing business, and I have no idea what I’m doing. It seems the more I try to be encouraging, the more I try to set a good example, the more I try to just be there for him as a friend, I come up short. I don’t understand addictions, and I don’t have answers to all of life’s problems. And even though I know the One with all the answers, sometimes it isn’t answers Joe is seeking.
These past couple of months have been brutal. Wanting to focus on the positive and not appear to be complaining, I’ve not shared this side of the discipleship journey with you before. However, it does you a disservice to paint a rosy picture of something that has deeper shades to it. And, it is not your pity or empathy that I seek. This journey, my journey, is one that I chose, and I’m grateful for every moment of it. No, instead, I need to continue my quest for transparency and complete honesty. The last guy I poured hundreds of hours into before he left prison, Phillip, has disappeared out of my life, back into a drug and alcohol culture. What did I do wrong? What could I have done better? The questions nag me.
Joe is volatile, fickle, and obnoxious. He keeps questioning his faith, then re-committing himself. He apologizes, tries again, and grows from it. We just finished The Purpose-Driven Life book together, and some days, I see him trying. Some guy named Samuel Smiley said we learn wisdom from failure more than from success, and he was right. Joe and I are on our way to much wisdom. I leave the results to God.
For me, even though it isn’t easy, I must be faithful to the end. The pain, the frustrations, the failures are some of my dearest teachers, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.