Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Storm Rages.

The white flashes light up the eastern sky as lightning bolts arc across the darkness. The heat from the past several days are colliding with the cooler air on the snow capped peaks and the result is the lightning storm that is displaying itself in all of its glory tonight. While the storm rages in the mountains outside, a different kind of storm is raging in me.

Some days being a convicted felon are harder than others, and it seems like today was one of those. It wasn't any one specific thing, but rather it was simply a re-awareness of loss...and restriction. And it wasn't just things that happened today...I just felt it more today than I do on most days.

When most people think of felons...at least this how I used to think before I was one...is that they go to prison, pay their penalty to society, get out and move on with their lives. Oh, we know from our greatest source of information on felons (TV and the movies) that they can't associate with other felons and they can't have a gun, but other than that, who really thinks about what their life is like? I know I never did.

I just got off the phone with my sister. It was a fun conversation and I loved hearing the excitement in her voice as she talked about the trip she is taking tomorrow. She and a teaching friend are on their way to Scotland for 10 days. I remember when our daughter was in college and she had the opportunity to go to Scotland for a semester to work with handicapped kids. Paula and I talked about how exciting it would be to go over and visit her, and I even saved up money for Paula to be able to go for a week. She chose not to, but the opportunity was there. We always knew that one day we would do that.

Last Monday evening, my younger brother Geoff and his wife called. They had just spent the previous week on vacation in Mexico...Baja California actually on the Sea of Cortez. They belong to one of the those condo organizations where they can spend vacations in many places around the world, and they have really enjoyed this particular place in Mexico. They had called to tell me that Geoff had 21 new stitches in his body from an accident that he had one a four-wheel ATV. He got thrown off and tore a pretty good gash in his arm and bruised him up pretty good. But thank God, there was no serious injury and no permanent damage.

I had breakfast with my older brother Frank about three weeks ago. We were celebrating his 54th birthday a week late. He and his wife had spent his birthday weekend in San Diego with his son Jon and his wife. They had a wonderful time and Frank shared the memories with me of some of the adventures they had while he was on the vacation.

Tonight, I sat in a church service and tears burned my eyes and streamed down my face like they haven't for a long time. The teens from the church had been at their summer church camp this week and there were about 25 of them lined across the front of the alter sharing their testimonies. Some were so powerful as they shared how they met Christ for the very first time. Many had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues for the first time. One young man broke my heart as he told how only last year summer, he got home and found it filled with police officers. He kept looking around for his mom and she was no where to be seen. Finally an officer came over and told him and his sister that their father had murdered their mother earlier that day. He shared the anger that he felt and how he had met Jesus that week and camp and how he was released from the anger and pain he felt. I just wanted to hold him and tell him that Jesus does indeed love him and that there are many in the church who will continue to pray for him and his sister.

As the service came to a close, the pastor called all of the young kids back up to the alter and invited the congregation to go up and be prayed for by these kids who were on fire for the Lord. Or, if we felt led by God, to go up and pray for these kids who face unbelievable tests and temptations in this world that they live in. All I could do was stand there and weep. I couldn't go forward. I couldn't go up there and let these young people who were on fire for God pray for me...and I couldn't lay hands on them and pray for them either. So I stood at my chair, with my hands lifted to Heaven...singing and praying and crying...not only for them, but also for me.

My pain today is all about restriction. I'm not saying that my restrictions aren't deserved. I made a terrible choice in life and I have to pay the consequences for it. But, it is nonetheless painful. I'm not allowed to do something as simple as travelling over the mountain to see my ex-wife without two weeks prior notice to my probation officer and a strict itinerary of where I'm going and who I'm going to be with. I may never be able to take a trip to Scotland, or even to Mexico because it may be that I can't get a passport now that I'm a felon. Dreams of travelling to Europe, or the Middle East to walk where Christ walked, or take a trip to the Caribbean or even to Canada are only that...dreams. While I am excited and happy when I hear stories from those who travel, it is difficult to know that I may never be able to do some of those things.

My entire adult life has been about kids. I worked as an educator for 25 years and my life was dedicated helping prepare kids for a future none of us can really predict. I didn't really know Christ as a child myself, and even though I gave my life to Him after reading the Bible when I was a teenager, I didn't get to know Him in a personal way until the last five years. So, whenever I hear teenagers share their testimony, my heart is moved in an extremely deep way. Many times, the stories that the kids share are of unbelievable pain and sadness and my heart is broken. What is different today is that before I was arrested, I could talk to those kids and pray with them or share how excited I was for them at how God was working in their lives and the healing that they were receiving. My restrictions now don't allow me to engage a kid in conversation. "Don't engage, don't prolong!" That's the rule I have to live by when it comes to anyone under the age of 18. Sometimes...like tonight at church...that rule is more painful than the three years I spent in prison. There is an aching in my heart that no medicine can relieve!

God is merciful that I don't have to spend many days like today. He has blessed me in remarkable ways and I thank Him everyday for the gifts and grace He has shown me. But once in a while I feel overwhelmed. But like the storm that sends out its bolts of lightning in the mountains to the east tonight, this day and the storm in my soul will pass.

1 comment:

Deb said...

This post has made me cry. When we were at Geoff's this weekend talking about our travel adventures, I was aware of how gracious you were to be excited for us. I was equally aware that they were adventures that you'll have to wait a very long time to have.

The unfairness of the restrictions you live with is something I think about often, and don't know what to do with. The pain you live with daily because of those restrictions makes me really sad.

The positive side of that is the tender, open, vulnerable man that you've become because of the last few years. Your complete lack of bitterness and blackness is more testimony and more inspiring than almost anything else I could imagine.

As always, your writing is compelling and vivid and so honest. I hope you'll find a way to give yourself the gift of its release, and the rest of us the gift of your words on a more regular basis.

It was so great to see you and your home this weekend. I love you so much.

Sis