February 22, 2020
Saturday, 4:00 p.m.
Letter #486: Honesty Can Get You Killed
More on my relationship with “Saul” … I saw him with a book in the dayroom, and I asked him about it. He very enthusiastically began telling me all about the book’s storyline, covering in great detail each of the main characters and how each played a role in the dramatic medieval saga. At one point, Saul told me about a tense standoff between the story’s hero and the main bad guy. Each had their swords drawn, and then the hero lunged at the bad guy and caught him by the throat and held him, saying, “I could kill you right now!” Can you imagine? I can, because Saul acted it out flawlessly, with me as the bad guy. His massive hand was around my throat as he acted it out. (Yes, Mommy, he could have acted it out by grabbing his own throat, but it wouldn’t have felt as authentic, right?) Again, no fear registered on my face, because I actually wasn’t afraid, though it certainly wasn’t comfortable.
Well-meaning Christian brothers told me that I “didn’t have to let him treat [me] that way,” as they tried to twist some Scriptures to fit how they would handle the situation. “The Bible says, you know, ‘Be strong and courageous,’ and that ‘God will help us defeat our enemies,’” friends of mine told me. Others said that Jesus hadn’t really meant to “turn the other cheek” literally, but figuratively. Mmmhmm. Sure.
I found it more difficult to deal with the Christian guys than with Saul in many ways. I was having to remind the Christians that being strong and courageous is all about yielding ourselves to the Almighty One and that someone we are sharing Christ with isn’t someone we should consider an enemy who needs to be defeated! I also had to remind them that turning the other cheek went far deeper than just a cheek in the days of the first-century church, as Christians were routinely tortured for their faith. This small stuff that Saul was putting me through was just a way I could demonstrate the reality of my trust in God.
Well, everything came to a head this past Tuesday evening. I was helping Saul with another writing project, and he was sharing with me about his struggles, his insecurities, his anger triggers, and how he feels about getting out next year. During our fascinating conversation, he mentioned (again!) how much he hates child molesters, but this time he went a step further. He said that his reputation means everything to him, so he just couldn’t be known as someone that “hangs around” with a “kid toucher,” as he bluntly puts it.
At that statement, I calmly closed the folder of papers we were working on, and said, “Well, Buddy, you
know why I’m in prison, right? We should go ahead and part ways. I understand.” I looked over at him.
“No,” he said, “I don’t know why you’re here. I’ve basically known, of course, but I never wanted to know.”
I was praying short bursts of words, asking God for wisdom. “Well, I knew you’d figured it out, so I just didn’t say anything. Normally I tell people,” I told him with a sad tone in my voice. I knew the next moments were going to change both of us, and I knew the Enemy was going to make it tough for Saul to yield to God. At that moment, I’d already told the Lord and my family that I was willing for anything to happen to me, if God got the glory. I knew personally of missionaries who have faced far worse for the Gospel.
Saul just looked at me. “Did you hurt a kid?” he asked.
“Yes,” I nodded quietly.
He shook his head. “I want to beat you up … the last person I did it to left by helicopter.” He asked me a bunch of questions, which I answered frankly and honestly, about what I did and why and on and on. He paced around for a bit then came back and said we were done talking for the night.
The next day, he cornered me in the bathroom and said how selfish it was for me to tell him, because he needed to beat me up, and he’d probably catch more time in prison for it. I assured him that no one would tell on him, saying, “You tell me when and where, and I’ll be there. You know I will, Buddy.” He said others would tell, and I said we’d do it where no one would see us. I told him that I’m not afraid of him, but that I know he can hurt me badly. The night before, I’d told him that, on one hand, I wanted to encourage him to do the right thing and not be the guy he used to be … but that, on the other hand, I certainly didn’t want to defend myself or beg him not to do whatever he wanted to do. I’d make it easy for him, either way.
Saul avoided me most of that day, so I wrote him a four-page letter I planned to try to give him when no one was watching. I wanted him to hear the story of one of my victims coming into a prison to forgive me … I wanted him to hear what forgiveness can do in a life … I wanted him to know of God’s grace so lavishly, unreasonably poured out for all. The next morning, I tried handing it to him in a lunch sack, but he told me to get away from him and that he wanted me to move out of the building, since he was constantly thinking of killing me.
A mutual acquaintance approached me later, and he told me I needed to wait until the night shift officers arrived at 10 p.m. and tell them I needed to leave due to being suicidal. I agreed to leave, but I said I wouldn’t lie or tell on Saul. The go-between agreed and was willing to take the letter I’d written also.
Later in the day Saul suddenly sat next to me in the dayroom, excited to show me something he’d received in the mail, thanks in part to my help. He said, “Christopher, I really began taking a liking to you on a personal level, even though I’d known why you were here. You see something in me that no one else does … but I’m not quite there yet. I’m trying.” I encouraged him to keep growing, keep trying, that I’d be praying for him. He got up to walk away but turned and said, “Take care. Get the help you need.”
I responded, “Thank you, You too.”
That night, I “rolled it up,” packing up all of my stuff and telling officers I wanted to leave. They made me sit at a table in the dayroom all night long. Ten hours later, on a new shift of officers, I was transferred to a different building on the same yard. I never broke my promise to not tell on Saul. Please pray with me that this big man would humble himself before his big God.