Tuesday, December 11, 2007

No More "White Cane"!

The air was still crisp as I walked across the 9th fairway on my way over to the fitness center. I'd gotten into the habit of trying to swim and take a jacuzzi and sauna nearly every day. Suddenly, my mind was filled with a thought that I couldn't shake. I'm not certain where it came from, but it wasn't just stopping by for a second. It wanted an answer. "Of all the kids in the family, you are NOT the one that anyone would have figured would end up in jail!"

Could it be true? I had to think about it. Certainly, I had never been a trouble maker. Now my little brother....he could have ended up in prison! In fact, part of his high school years were spent in a private school because of a bad choice he made. The judge told my folks it was either a private school, or he could go to the State Reform School for Boys. I think it was probably an easy decision. (At least I hope it was.) But he was kind of a renegade growing up. He loved fast cars and getting a little wild and crazy at times. He would have been a candidate for the "Steel Bar Motel" before me.

And my sister. Well, I will probably never know all of her story. But, she did do a few things in college that they put people in jail for. Some "recreational use" of some certain substances that society frowns on. I know that people can go to jail for that kind of stuff. And I have to admit, I never did venture into those kind of activities. Surely she could have found herself a "guest of the county" instead of me...couldn't she?

My older brother...well he's a different story. Almost everyone would tell you that he certainly would not be a candidate for an orange jumpsuit. But, well, I know a little bit more about his life than most people. And, he made a few decisions along the way that officials might frown on. Decisions that put some people behind bars.

As I walked and thought about this issue, at first I was totally convinced that if the news media were asking all of my friends or the people I grew up with, they would all be shocked that I would ever do anything to send me to "Club Fed." I'm sure they would say things like, "he was always such a good kid. I don't think he ever got in trouble at school." Or, "Mark! The Mark I knew was so squeaky clean...they must have the wrong guy!" Even as I looked at my life, I was doing a pretty good job of convincing myself that I was just never "that bad"...certainly not prison material.

It's funny how Satan does such a good job of blinding us...at at least me. I actually believed the lies I was telling myself. I didn't see my life for what it really was. It was filled with sin and bad choices from my early childhood. A black-out drunk by the time I graduated from high school. Easily an opportunity for multiple DWI's and a couple of leaving the scene could have been on my record. I was caught shoplifting when I was about 10 years old...but no one ever knew. Countless sexual relationships before marriage...and some with married women. I certainly did NOT have a life that was squeaky clean. But in my mind...I just didn't see it.

But on that spring day, walking toward the fitness center, God allowed me to have a Damascus Road experience. It wasn't filled with a bright, blinding light like Paul had, but for the first time in my life, the scales fell from my eyes. Satan couldn't keep the reality of my life hidden from me any longer. God was allowing me to see my life for what it really was...allowing me to see ME for who I really was. And the picture just wasn't very pretty.

Before I went to prison, I wasn't really a fan of the song "Amazing Grace." It was just too familiar...it seemed like it was the "one" church song that was always played. I had never really bothered to pay attention to the words, but I had the melody line down. While I was in prison, I heard and sang that song a lot. I even learned the story behind the song, and the man who wrote it. I learned what God's Grace is really all about! Every time I sing the last line of the first verse, my walk that morning comes to mind. "I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see" That is the story of my life for the past four years. God had given me the gift of sight...not natural sight, but spiritual sight. And because I have that gift, I've been allowed to see the sin of my life...an opportunity to turn and run in the opposite direction of the choices that I made for years. I no longer need a "white cane" because of my blindness...it has been substituted by the cross of Christ and my vision has been restored!


Deb said...

I love this post. When you were first caught, one conversation that came up more than once was just what you're saying. No one expected that you would be the one caught. Little brother and I never seemed able to be so careful about our challenges of the rules. Older brother had the hero thing working for him and you had the quiet, well-behaved, dignified front.

I had to stop and sit for a minute when I came to your comment about being a black-out drinker in high school. I have said that exact sentence every time someone has asked about my alcoholism and why I don't drink any more. I had no idea that you drank to that extreme, although there are stories out there about some after high school escapades . . . .

I came to know long ago how close I came to a life that would have led me to either jail, or the streets or an early death - or all three. And it's one of the ways I know without doubt that God loves me.

Looking forward to the next installment of your story. I love you.

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