We greeted each other with huge smiles and hugs as we took seats around a small table. After getting some burgers and sodas, we shared about life; we heard how he was doing, told him about the wedding, talked about current events. We asked him what the Lord was teaching him, and he told us how he’s been reading the Gospel of John. I’d never met him in person, so he shared with me his story: how God redeemed his life, taking his sin and dirtiness, and making him whole. We talked and joked for hours, and, when the time came for Morgan and I to leave, we were so sad to say goodbye, knowing that it’d probably be a couple of months til we saw him again.
Our interaction with our friend that day seems like any old lunch date.
However, we were at Keen Mountain Correctional Center, a Virginia state prison that ranks as one of the highest security prisons. Before we got to meet with our friend, we were frisked, with officers checking our mouths, feet, and all over. We trekked through fenced yards surrounded by barbed wire and surrendered our belongings at the front desk. Our burgers came from a vending machine, and guards patrolled the visitation room as we shared life together for a few short hours.
Morgan and I have the incredible opportunity to call an inmate our brother in Christ. After his crime (that was high profile and all over the news), my mother-in-law Lucy decided that, just like everyone else, this man deserved to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. She got his address and shared the gospel through letters, and this man came to know the Lord.
I know his story well, and I still get goosebumps every time I share it. This man is changed. He is redeemed. He is loved and he loves. When Lucy was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, he had a whole team of prayer warriors interceding on her behalf (and the Lord responded and healed her!). He shares his faith with other prisoners, and he’s getting baptized in a couple of weeks (praise God). He committed a horrendous crime, and he’ll spend the rest of his life paying the consequence for that. However, his eternity is sealed with our heavenly Father–there is no greater picture of redemption than this man.
Once, Lucy was talking to him about spending life in prison, and he quickly responded, telling her that he’s in jail forever because he deserves to be in jail forever. His remorse is overwhelming–he recognizes his sin, and it disgusts him. He has so much joy, though, because his hope is in God and not in this life. He knows that he has been forgiven.
Last week at church, our pastor preached on depression in believers. When thinking about how to go on in the midst of struggles and trials, our application was “Hope is a person.” This inmate literally will never be able to find hope in anything other than Christ. He is confined to prison for the rest of his life, with no hope of leaving. Yet, he has abundant joy because he has faith that God purposefully orchestrated his life to bring him into a personal relationship with Him.
What if we looked at life that same way? Our struggles and trials are momentary. We get down because things aren’t lining up “perfectly” (aka the way we want things to line up). God is GOOD. He is present, He is prevalent, and He is powerful. If He has the strength to redeem a murderer, doesn’t He have the strength to redeem our mundane and petty issues?