In January of 2003, I was in the midst of an eighteen-month sentence I’d received for a violent crime I’d committed while being under the influence of cocaine and whiskey. I was 26 years old, and I was sent to do my time at the first and only treatment centre I’ve ever taken part in — not because of any success I’ve acquired in this area.
With the help and guidance of the institutional chaplain at that time, I spoke with God from the heart. I admitted my wrongdoings, and that I was hopeless sinner. I received the gift of forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus.
I told Him that, with His help, I wanted to follow him and His ways. It sounds clichéd, but I was overcome with long hidden emotions. I cried like a baby for several minutes.
After the tears, peace came over me. Suddenly, my anxieties and feelings of guilt and shame dissipated. I knew what happened was real. The apostle Paul wrote, “Anyone who believes in Christ is a new creation. The old has gone! The new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I did Bible studies and spent time mentoring under the chaplain to learn and get to know Jesus better. Upon my release, my relationship with the chaplain ended. I was “better now” and wanted to do things my own way.
For the next nine years, I was a slave to sin and the flesh. I continued drinking, doing drugs, and engaging in criminal activities, and was in and out of jail multiple times.
In 2012, I was arrested for another violent offence. This time, I graduated to the “big house” in a penitentiary. For over nine years, the seed that He had planted in my heart began producing fruit. After God stooped down, pulled me out of the depths of sin, and breathed in me new life, the Holy Spirit began to change a gambling, drinking, fornicating, thieving wreck like me into a God-fearing man.
And sure enough, over time, as I tried to follow Jesus’ teachings and open myself to His power, I noticed I began to change. Jesus gave me a moral compass to live by. I didn’t hurt people — or myself — the way I used to.
He once again relieved me of the guilt and shame that weighed so heavily on my exhausted shoulders. He gave a new dimension to the few relationships I had left, while at the same time transitioning my mind and thought process, and thus my actions.
This started while I was in prison, but continued throughout my release. I joined a God-fearing church, changed my friends and associates, and began attending a weekly church group. Because of my obedience and faithfulness, my cup began to overflow with His blessings.
He gave me a job with my new landlord, who also owned a business. At the same time, I was doing snow removal in the evenings at the church.
Everything was going well for me until I started going back to the pub a couple nights per week, and dabbling in occasional opium. And once I began making money, I had what I needed to start playing poker again. I played four tournaments in four weeks, winning three of them — and making $4,000. Although my relationship with Jesus was still consistent, I was now back to my old shenanigans.
I didn’t heed God’s warnings. He taught me a lesson to get me back on the right path. At this time, I was only out of prison for ten months. I got arrested again on yet another serious offence. I’m looking at ten years this time. Ironically — God as my witness — although I am morally guilty and have broken God’s laws, I didn’t commit the crime this time around. But although it’s unfortunate to be back in jail, this is where I am closest with God.
I could go on and tell you all the fortunate things I’ve learned because I’ve had so much quality time alone with God. However, I’ve written too much already. For whatever reason, this was God’s will. In order for Him to teach me many valuable lessons, I need to be where I am. My situation is unfortunate, but by faith, I know that everything works out best in the end when you trust God. Not my will be done, but His.