So, I guess it doesn’t take much to derail me from being the true follower I desire to be. Since moving in the four man room I had become comfortable with life inside corrections to the point of taking advantage of my situation, just as I had on the outside prior to my offense. In other words, I was right back where I started. Now that I think about it, it sounds just like the abuse cycle we have been studying in our course work. Pretend to be normal, build up, act out, justification, repeat. I was in the first phase. Will I ever learn?
So I have been blessed many times over, especially compared to many or even most in here. With the sale of my business on the outside, I have been able to keep my daughter in college and my wife in our huge house. She even has enough to send a small amount monthly to my account so I can have a full buy at commissary every two weeks. That is more than many guys as some do not even have enough to purchase anything more than ramen soup or peanut butter. The State keeps the prices real low, supposedly at their cost, to help inmates who have very little. We do receive .15 per hour for our course work per week, figured on 30 hours, the normal work week. But that is only $ 4.50 a week. Even when ramen cost .15 each, it doesn’t allow much wiggle room, especially for smokers. Thank goodness the mess hall allows you to take out up to four slices of bread. But that is all, nothing else.
It seems some people go through their food supply before they can resupply. Their “eyes are bigger than their belly” as my dad always used too say. In actuality I have noticed very little impulse control evidenced. I have a feeling that is why we all are in here, no impulse control.
Now to the build up phase. At various times guys would wander down to the end of the hall and inquire if anyone had such and such to eat. So, being the entrepreneurial type guy I am and was on the outside, I decided to satisfy their cravings when I could. At first I joked they would have to pay me back double, as I too wanted those cookies or chips or tobacco (I don’t smoke but use for trade) or whatever. Two for one, no matter what it was. However, it became such a ritual for some that I planned my shopping around things I could “sell”, my acting out phase. This simply added to my stash to double again. Not a bad deal for me, and guys knew if they had to come all the way down to the end of the hall to get their fix on things, it would cost them. I didn’t even have to tell them, they just knew. If they wanted it that bad, they would have to pay the price. Maybe they would then learn. Yep, the justification phase.
Then I was nudged, something I couldn’t really put my finger on, but something told me I was not being the disciple I thought I was. One night while laying in repose just before sleep, I couldn’t shake the notion I was to stop my store. Was I being a good follower or just mouthing it on Sundays and at Bible Studies? Was my fruit what Christ would have wanted from someone sprouting off Him, with Him being the vine and me being one of his branches? Obviously not. I felt convicted and couldn’t sleep. I resolved to end the charade and make amends, repay much like the tax collector vowed to Jesus when confronted with his sin of overcharging his constituents in the gospels (Luke 19 v8)
It was truly amazing the first time someone came to do business and found me giving out stuff. Of course, then the flood gates were opened. I think they thought I was being a patsy, but I explained my motivation for those who would listen. Some did, many wondered and all were grateful at their new found fortune. The best thing was I was also blessed Seeing the look on some of their faces the first time it happened was priceless. Of course I then began looking at any thing else in my life where I was pushing the limits or thought of only myself, just as I had done on the outside.
What I came up with was my taking sugar out of the mess hall. Yes, stealing, one of the ten commandments we are not to do. As usual, I justified it as fodder to trade for items I liked or could use, whether from the mess hall or from packages. There were many coffee drinkers who were put out when I informed them I was out of the stealing business, something that went against my faith. I am sure some wondered why it took me so long to come to that conclusion – I did. Most were just pissed, saddened they had to find another source or go without, only thinking of themselves, just as I had been doing. But right was right and I had been so wrong, again being a smorgasborder of the faith when it worked for me.
How would I ever be an example for others inside or outside corrections when I had hidden sin? Since I had learned that all sin carries the same weight, one is no worse than another, it really didn’t matter which commandment I violated, because if I broke one, I desecrated them all. The ground is level at the cross,our Bible study leaders would admonish us, with all sinners being equally wrong in our transgressions before the Holy One. The only thing to do was repent and turn away from our wrongdoing. That is what I did, and it felt great, even better than knowing I was getting the finer end of the two for one deal. Now my customers would have that elation when they left, and I knew I was back on the road to recovery, and I could look everyone in the eye, knowing I was a better disciple for my efforts. Time to get off the abuse cycle.
I wanted to continue examining my behaviors for such transgressions, something I had not really done before, certainly not on the outside. There I was all about me and what others could do for me or my business, what I could get in return. It is amazing it had not caught up to me before this, but the Lord had other plans for me I believe. I do not think it would have stuck with me out there, not have made the impression it did inside corrections, seeing their faces and knowing I had helped someone with such a simple thing as say, giving a bag of chips.
It also returned me to my original mantra adopted after being arrested and coming to my senses: no more secrets. I wanted to be an open book, practice what I preached and continue to be so when I was on the outside after being paroled next year. What a better place to practice than with my fellow inmates who only thought about the here and now. I had not been careful and had fallen in the same thinking pattern as them when I am called, as a follower of Christ, to be better than that. It is a continual legacy we are leaving my favorite Bible teacher had said. “Bringing every thought captive” Saint Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10 v5. I couldn’t live with one foot in the world and the other in the Kingdom of God. It just doesn’t work that way. I needed to be aware and not fall into being content or thinking I was doing alright because I was going to church and all that.
Keeping Christ with me at all times of the day and night, both feet in His kingdom, was something I found helped. If He was with me, would I really do what I was doing or saying? That was a powerful thought that began to serve me well. Otherwise I would not be able to help others avoid my pitfalls. I needed to take the plank out of my own eye before I could help my brother take the speck out of his as Mathew says in 7 v5.
So the store was closed, but my heart was opened.