September 13, 2015
Sunday, 7:00 p.m.
Letter #400: Hump Day!
In case you didn’t notice, this letter is a bit of a milestone for me, my four-hundredth weekly letter home since embarking on this life-changing journey behind bars. Obviously, it is a bit of a milestone for you who faithfully read my letters every week, you poor things. Thank you for the generous sacrifice of your care, concern, and interest in me. It is widely acknowledged that the greatest asset one can possess is a true friend, and I couldn’t agree more. The many friendships and loving relationships with my family that I enjoy make me a far wealthier man than most.
This period marks an even greater milestone than just a small number of letters, however. I’ve calculated October 4, 2015 to be my “Hump Day,” my half-way mark of sorts in my 15-year, two-and-a-half month sentence. Woohoo! You’d think it would be ample reason to celebrate, for sure, but I look at it a bit differently. To me, this is a good time to reflect on the first half of my incarceration while I set my sights on what God wants me to accomplish, but I can’t help seeing my remaining time as daunting. True, I’m on the downhill side of my term now, just coasting to the finish, but I also see the mountain of time left in front of me, and I get discouraged.
But what do I expect? God grants us enough light for the next step, not the next seven-and-a-half years. If I choose to dwell on the portion of my sentence that remains rather than thanking God for the portion that has passed, I miss out on what He sees. He expects me to use my time well without complaining, so that should be my focus. While I have profound regrets for certain personal disappointments, I must trust God, who makes beauty of ashes. And, boy, does He have quite the pile of ash to work with, thanks to the heaps of things I’ve burned up in my life.
Interesting enough, should I be blessed with long life, I’m probably nearing that half-way point as well, meaning that every day ahead of me is a gift. By assessing the successes and less-than-successes of my life thus far, I can better challenge myself to be even better. A better servant, friend, or citizen. Well, a better citizen once I’m off of parole, since I’m technically a ward of the state until then. Note that I am a “ward of the state,” not “an award of the state.” The state will not be handing me out at the end of all this, placing me around the necks of my family like a booby prize, though I’ll be an unfortunate little adornment for the forthcoming seven-plus years at least.
So, what’s next? With little-to-no control over my living situation, job situation, relationship situation, etc., I’m sure I’ll be seeing some semblance of deja vu over these next several years. Same routine. Same kind of neighborhood. Same just-about everything. And for that, I’m grateful. God, who is same “yesterday, today, and forever” will lead me through this next phase. He has always seen my through, looking out for what I need most as He makes this reluctant blob of clay more into His image.
He’s not always lead me where I anticipated or expected, of course. He never does, since He isn’t limited in His planning and oversight as we are. He sees infinitely more options and possibilities than I do, which means that I’m usually receiving far more than I could ever imagine or deserve.
The great unknown means a journey of faith, a journey of trust. This Friday morning, my dad will undergo open-heart surgery in order to replace a faulty aortic valve. this is the perfect analogy of a faith-lived life. As my dad puts his life into his physician’s hands, he must trust and believe that he knows what he is doing. In fact, my father’s doctor knows far more about my dad’s body than he himself ever will. He’d been down this road before, though it will be a first for my dad.
I don’t like being in prison, and these days are the worst, when I know I should be there for my dad. I wish I could sit next to him and hold his hand and pray with him, but no. My brothers will all be there, including two who must fly great distances to be with him. I can pray from here, and that is what I will do.
The uneasiness isn’t about the surgery. My dad is brave and I know he won’t complain. What’s nerve-wracking is the unknown, especially if you let yourself go there. Whether with my dad’s health, my future, possible transfer back to California, or any number of unknowns, I choose to place them in the very capable hands of my God, as If I’m placing my heart on the operating table, willing for the Great Physician to work on it, fix it, replace parts with cow parts, whatever. He has a much better idea of what needs to be fixed than I do, and, if you can believe this, He cares about the outcome way more than I do!
So, I’m sure I’ll be in for a fun ride, with enough material to fill the next 400 weekly letters home. Happy reading!