Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Unlikely Places

He had traded in his Armani suit for a bright orange jumper.  Rather than dining at five star restaurants, he now waited in line for standard institutional meals.  His daily interactions no longer took place in the oak-paneled boardroom, for his domain had been reduced to a ten by ten foot cell.  He had worked his way through school, climbed the corporate ladder from the bottom rung, and had arrived at a coveted position of wealth and status.  But through the years, the cocktail of success had numbed his conscience.  He was abruptly awakened from his drunken stupor as the cell door clanged shut. The echo resonating down the long cement corridor served as a haunting reminder of his long chain of life-changing choices. 

Although he had traveled throughout the world, this was a foreign country for which he could not have time to prepare. He sat quietly digesting every morsel of information that would help him understand this new land.  The culture, language and customs of this place were alien to the life he had known.

His new neighbor, an intimidating hulk of a man, had gained his citizenship through taking the life of another.  He observed that very same man tenderly giving his new, hard-labored-for shoes to one who needed them more.  Time after time, he witnessed acts of kindness, selflessness, and courage within this world set apart from acceptable society.  He slowly discovered that all he had previously believed about “these people” was not accurate.  Yes, they had made poor, often devastating choices, yet in each man resided a more complex story.  Another side.  Alongside the obvious, well-documented depravity was the irrefutable existence of dignity.

Over time, his relationships shifted from that of outcast to friend, and he grew to love these criminals.  These undesirables.  These prodigals.  Together, they had found the strange peace that comes when many layers worn in the world are stripped away, and the naked truth remains. Life’s circumstances had leveled the playing field for these men of extremely diverse backgrounds.  There was no plotting to manipulate the future.  No fortune to be made or social ladder to climb.  No pretense.  No attempts to explain or defend. Locked away behind bars, he was able to find freedom.

The countdown of years droned on, one slow minute following another.  From the outside, his life looked painfully monotonous compared to the stimulating world that he once knew.  Yet the simplicity of his days allowed space for movement and growth of a different kind.  He found and spoke words of truth about the realities of his life without fear of judgment or condemnation.  As his scrambling to control and manipulate life was no longer a viable strategy, there was an ease and relief that settled in his soul.  Room was made for a new inhabitant – One who would never leave nor forsake.   One who restores the years that poor choices have taken.  One who makes all things new.

Trapped in the worst of situations, there was no way out. 

He lost all that he had in the world.  

He gained Life.

"You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you.  Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less.  That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God.  He’s the food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
You’re blessed when you care.  At the moment of being “care-full,” you find yourselves cared for.
You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight.  That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. 
You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your mind and heart – put right.  Then you can see God in the outside world. 
You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution.  The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. .”  
The Message

1 comment:

Linda said...

You've written a story of redemption and hope and perspective--powerful, memorable stuff. Many thanks for your inspiration today.