October 4, 2015
Sunday, 7:00 p.m.
Letter #403: Head-on Collisions
Highlighting news broadcasts here in Arizona is the recent escalation in wrong-way driving incidents. Usually committed by severely impaired motorists who somehow enter a major highway facing the wrong direction, the intoxicated driver can often travel for several miles before their journey comes to a fateful end. Innocent lives are lost or altered forever, and the public is left contemplating how they can be stopped.
A few companies have devised elaborate warning systems of flashing lights and loud noises. Tire-shredding devices could also be installed at great cost at every onramp, but drunk drivers don’t always drive within the lines, do they? What happens when they make it around the spikes is the real question.
As county supervisors, city councils, and the Powers That Be at the Department of Public Safety debate possible solutions to what appears to be a growing problem, one officer recently took matters into his own hands to help prevent loss of life.
With an all-points bulletin out on another wrong-way driver, the officer sped towards the motorist’s last known location, clearing the highway of other cars as he went. Seeing the vehicle coming towards him, the officer bravely steered his patrol vehicle directly into it, resulting in a head-on collision that put him and the other driver into the hospital. As I watched the details unfold, I couldn’t help but wonder if God would ever need me to be that guy, someone who runs toward the problem and gets involved, intervening in a way that perhaps saves lives.
Let me tell you about Marcus. He recently asked me if I would meet with him about his Exit Strategy, planning for what he’ll do once released. Not having had much contact with him other than general niceties in our pod, I was surprised that he knew of my interest and experience helping guys put plans in motion for their future success. What he didn’t know, I am certain, is the range of topics I cover and the depths we would go to along the way toward helping him.
We chose to meet twice a week, just after evening count. At 9:00 p.m., just a handful of the 120 guys are out in the dayroom, giving us some semblance of privacy for the brief 45 minutes before evening lockdown.
At first, to help him open up, I asked about his home life growing up. I’ve rarely heard of such a sad story as the one he recounted to me that night.
His father was incarcerated by the time he was born, and his mom was a consistent alcohol and drug abuser, putting Marcus at great risk for birth defects. Miraculously born healthy, Marcus was taken to a dirty apartment where his mother abandoned him. He lay there on the floor for three days until his fourteen-year-old aunt found him and took him in as her own. Besides her, he has no family.
We began to talk about what drives him to begin setting goals, and he poured out his life of crime that led him to prison. I’m the first he’s told, and he’s scared of the many unknowns that he faces. He knew he had to make a change, and something told him to ask me for help.
As I usually do, I went through possible goal categories with him, starting with religion. I asked what he felt about God, and he said, “All I see is darkness. Pure darkness.”
Let me say that I have asked different versions of that question to hundreds of people, opening up a dialog about their preconceived notions about their Creator. However, I have never heard so profound an answer as Marcus gave. Not that he didn’t know, or that he is disillusioned. Darkness. He told me that he’s not sure if he even believes God exists, but that he is full of evil and evil thoughts. He confessed that he regularly contemplates who he’d like to kill, down to the graphic details of how he’d accomplish that.
He excused himself briefly at one point to go use the bathroom, and grateful for the quick break, I shot up a prayer to my Heavenly Father. I knew God had allowed this meeting, this Divine Appointment, and beginning to feel I was heading down a road I haven’t been on before, I quickly asked for His wisdom on how to handle the situation. Immediately, what flashed in my mind was the news footage of the officer stopping that wrong-way driver, and God spoke to my heart the calm assurance that He was answering my unspoken desire to be the vehicle that stops someone who is headed the wrong direction.
I didn’t have time to be amazed at God’s ability to get my attention. I just had enough time to let Him know I was making plenty of room in the driver’s seat for Him on this one, then I made sure to listen to the Holy Spirit, guiding the rest of our conversation that night.
I gave Marcus an assignment as we ended our talk. He would need to come prepared to tell me what his goals are for the coming month, and those goals would need to cover a broad range of categories, from relationships to education, and he’d have to include religion as well. He seemed hesitant, so I quickly grabbed the goals sheet I’d given him, wrote the list of categories for him, then next to the one marked “religion,” I wrote: God? with the question mark after His name, and told him to begin to think about it. God began to steer my vehicle into Marcus.