This is the third post written by my mom, with my permission. First article “Looking Back” was posted on November 2, 2014; second article “Looking Around” was posted on January 15, 2015.
I have a son in a federal prison. Those words are hard to say. In fact, I have yet to say them aloud. There has really been no reason to say them aloud…..except for one time…..and I didn’t do it. I was getting a manicure and mentioned to the nail technician that we were leaving for a few days to visit our son in Dallas. As soon as I gave her that information I knew she would ask. “What does your son do in Dallas?” I could not bring myself to say the words. So I told her that he had been a teacher for ten years and was now doing prison ministry. That IS the truth. My son IS doing prison ministry right where God has him. The nail technician wanted to know more. She asked if he really goes inside the prison to do his work and if he’s there with all those inmates. The look on her face indicated she could not imagine someone wanting to do that. I explained that Yes, he is inside the prison and has a good rapport with many of the inmates.
My son IS an inmate. Craig turned our world upside down; he turned his own world upside down. But even in the middle of these circumstances, God has a plan. God has Craig’s best interest in mind. We believe something more is coming. No matter what disappointments we have had, there is still something more. We put our hope in the Lord. It’s our story. It’s all part of the Perino story. It is a grand story and it will not be wasted. It has a beautiful ending.
Our story is all about faith. Faith gives a person driving power to get through. It’s faith that allows us to believe in a God of miracles and second chances, a God who hears and answers prayers, a God of mercy and grace. Faith is knowing and believing that whatever is best for Craig is God’s plan. We must continue to live out our faith even though we don’t know the final outcome. God has not answered our prayers the way we asked…..at least not yet. We prayed and got no response. It felt like God was not answering, was not even listening. It looked like nothing was happening. But He has answered them in His way, and our faith knows that His answers are part of God’s perfect plan for Craig. We can’t always see what God is doing, but we know He is up to something good. God’s timing and ways are always perfect.
Our son’s dreams were shattered. There is sadness of watching hopes and dreams for our son die. For over three years now we have been living a life that was not in our plans for our family. Our lives won’t ever be the same. Our family story turned sour. We can choose to think about the injustices and unfairness of life; we can focus on our disappointments and fears. But we choose not to. There is a better option than giving in to bitterness or despair. We are not at the end of the rope, or the road. There is so much of life ahead. Each of us live in an adventure of a lifetime – trusting God, without knowing where it will lead us or how it will fit into God’s grand story for us. Having a son in prison is not the end of the story; it is only the beginning of the rest of the story. Many more chapters of the story will be written.
One day life is normal and full of promise, and the next day the phone rings or the accident happens or the breakdown occurs or the police officer knocks on the door or the doctor shakes his head. And our comfortable life is interrupted or completely taken off course. Maybe you are in a spot where your faith is tested. Life is different than you anticipated, and you are wondering how you are going to get through. You can’t go back. You can’t change what is happening. You can’t make it on your own; you can’t make it tomorrow or next month or next year. God must show up in your life. You must put all your hopes, dreams and fears into the hands of God, even though you have no way of knowing how your particular circumstance will turn out. You must relinquish control of the outcome and totally trust God.
I can see that Craig is not wasting prison. He continues to believe that God has a purpose for his life. He is making a positive difference in the lives of those around him. He inspires me to live a better life. This is not the life I would have chosen for my son. But he is learning to enjoy the pleasures of the moment. Right now he is living a simple life. He gets up every morning with the same routine. It’s a good routine. And people function well with a routine. He works in the morning, goes to class in the afternoon, spends evenings in other classes or working out or praying or playing sports. He’s doing what we’re doing, only without the pressure of excelling or being in charge or paying bills. He not only survives; he thrives! God is all over Craig right where he is.
We grieve over what happened. We grieve over the loss of Craig’s freedom. We grieve that he is not with us as we share family celebrations. Grief hurts and it can hurt for a long time. I remember when my dad died. I had the privilege of sitting by his side in the hospital through the night, knowing that his time was near the end. He had been in and out of the hospital many times, but this time it was different. This time we knew he would not be coming home. I decided to stay all night, thinking it would happen soon, and I would rather be with him than get that dreaded phone call in the middle of the night. So the hours went by and at 6:15 in the morning he breathed his last breath. Nothing changed. He was lying in bed and his breathing stopped. He was gone. The part of my heart that belonged to my father broke. I kissed his forehead and told the nurse he was gone. Even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death we need not be afraid because God is present with us. In His presence we can experience fullness of joy. At the hour of my father’s death, God was present. Joy was coming. Dad was walking off with Jesus. Two carpenters walking off together….most likely Dad telling Jesus that the mansion in the sky could have been built a little better. HA! True joy happened for my dad.
Yes, I grieved over Dad’s death. But I knew his future. His future was with Jesus. As I grieve for my son, I do not know his future. Oh, I know his eternal future with Jesus, but Craig has a lot of life on this earth yet, and I grieve because I do not know his future life here. For the rest of his life, someone will hate him. For the rest of his life there will be those who will try to get him to fail. For the rest of his life, he will have a stigma associated with his name. For the rest of his life, he will have to prove to others that he is a good person, that he is not an evil man. For the rest of his life people will watch him suspiciously. For the rest of his life he will struggle to find a job. For the rest of his life, he will not be trusted. Looking ahead, the rest of his life will be hard!!! And that hurts.
I know and believe that God will determine how Craig’s life will unfold from here. Only God can take the mess and make something good out of it. But my human instincts, my mother instincts worry. I know worry is a sin, and I’m working on that. I daily choose prayer over worry and try not to be concerned about what may or may not happen tomorrow. I remind myself to have confidence in God’s care. When I trust that He is in control, I can find peace and live with contentment . God is sovereign and He is totally in control of the future. Personal sin and failure does not mean the end of the story. God’s intention is always to bring good out of any trial. He sees the beginning and the end, and we don’t. He IS the beginning and the end. God has never laid awake at night, and wonder how this will work out. God already knows how it all turns out. So I can trust Him.
As I look ahead, I see that God will use Craig with his education, leadership, gifts, and potential in a great career. Someday he will marry and have a family. He is going to be a great dad who interacts with his children in meaningful ways. He is going to make a good living and take care of the needs of his family. He is going to take his kids to the movies and have date nights with his wife and take his family to church on Sundays. I do believe that the rest of our family’s life will be the best of our family’s life. I believe this because I trust. I look ahead and know that nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible with God in our life.
Father, You are good. I know that nothing is impossible with You. Forgive my unbelief and worry and help me to truly trust You in everything, to know that as I look ahead, You have a plan for Craig’s future that will surprise us all and give us great joy as we live the remaining days of our life on this earth.
P.S. Maybe you are the one who will forgive Craig, who will give him a chance at life; a place of employment; a belief and confidence that will help him live his future with great anticipation. If so, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will pass on the information to Craig.