As I start to write this post today, I have exactly four weeks until I exit Federal Prison for good, even less time when this blog gets posted. When I leave here, I will have done 64+ months behind concrete walls and razor sharp fences. I will have done time in three Federal Prisons and two County Jails. I will also have experienced living with the general population inmates and living in the specialized housing unit….also known as “the hole” (solitary confinement).
I would never have imagined that I would spend this amount of time in these locations locked up, let alone any time at all. However, if someone would ask me if I could change one thing about my life, my answer would be “nothing at all.” Do I regret some of the choices and decisions I have made in my lifetime? Absolutely, Yes! But both the good choices and bad choices I made define me as a person. It is who I am today and I would not change my life for anything. I have learned from my mistakes. I have grown and matured because of my mistakes. And I have led others to Christ where I am because of my mistakes. I know I have said this before, but this is by far the greatest adventure I have ever experienced in my lifetime.
I know this has been hard on my family, especially my parents. But we have all grown in some way, shape or form because of this. God has truly been with us every step of the way and has delivered us time and time again. Prison is the result of my poor choices. While God is disciplining me, He is testing my family and putting them through a trial. Some trials are short lived, while others are 64 months long. All of us in our lifetime will face really hard seasons when it seems as if the entire world is against us, when we think we just cannot win…..being stuck in the judicial system feels like it is a dead end road. But when we keep standing strong, following the Lord, and obeying His calling, He will see us through and keep us on His path. My family and I are definitely living proof of that truth.
My life and my family’s life will never be the same again. We will continuously go through struggles, tests, and ridicules as the result of my decisions and actions. But our question should not be Why Us? Instead, it should be What Now? I know more of who I am now than I did before I got arrested. My days will not always run smoothly. There will be times when I will put on a front and pretend smile just to get by even though I am hurting on the inside. There will be days when I will want to curl up in a ball and cry my day away. But these are the days when God is rebuilding me. Like a bone that breaks and gets stronger when healed, God breaks us down only to build us back up even stronger. God empties our hands so we can finally reach for Him.
I want to close out this post with a story I stumbled across just the other day. I had to read it a few times just to understand it. But when it finally did come to me, it hit me hard and opened up my eyes to God’s perfect plan and will.
When I was a kid I had a friend named Joey. Joey had been taking violin lessons since he was three years old. His parents were accomplished musicians who played with the symphony orchestra in my town. Sometimes they would take us to rehearsal with them, and we would run around the building while they rehearsed. The orchestra made a record, and Joey could play along on his violin flawlessly, in perfect harmony with the record, as if he sat in that orchestra with them. I wanted to be able to do that so when I was about ten I asked my parents if I could start taking violin lessons. They got me a violin. I practiced hard and learned “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” When I got really good at it, I put on the record Beethoven’s Fifth. I tried to play along like Joey did, but I didn’t sound anything like what I heard. My strings squeaked and my notes were off key. Eventually, I gravitated back to Twinkle Twinkle and played that instead. But the record kept playing and Beethoven’s Fifth went on perfectly and never missed a note. Praying in God’s will is just like that. He tells us if we pray anything according to His will, it will be done. But our prayers aren’t always in tune with the symphony.
I continuously pray. My family continuously prays. My friends continuously pray. We have been praying for that miracle of my release for the last five years. My release date has been changing for the last year and half. Even when I leave this place on July 31, the state of Wisconsin still might have custody over me until next fall. We just continue to pray for a miracle of freedom. We pray that it is God’s will to let me go. But you know, no matter what happens, my music always gets trumped by God’s symphony, and His symphony without a doubt is playing something much more beautiful. I want my life to be the symphony God has chosen, and not merely Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Why? Because His symphony, His plan for my life, is much grander than I can ever make it.