“How do you do it?” This man I had known for less than five minutes was letting down his guard a little. “I have tried, pastor, but it’s too hard.” (Argh! Those who know me know I don’t like being called “pastor” because I haven’t earned that title!)
I sat in the cage-booth that is used for visits in Ad Seg (the Hole.) I, along with four others, had just finished our enjoyable visits from friends and family. The visits in Ad Seg are only 60 minutes long, through a thick glass and a germ-infested phone. Even so, it is a blessing to receive such love.
When our visits end, our visitors are escorted out, and we are left waiting for the plethora of officers to come retrieve us. While we wait, we get a rare opportunity to talk to one another without having to yell through vents or doors. Normally I sit quietly and mind my own business, but on this day I was “all ears.”
The man on my left knew the man on my right. In normal voices they began to have a conversation. “Hey, Big I, are you going home soon?” said “left” to “right.” “Two weeks,” Big I replied. “How about you, Young Pooh?” (These are seriously the names they go by. I wanted to laugh, but didn’t.)
“I got three days!” Young Pooh was excited. His voice proved it. They went on and talked about their cases and families. They caught up on old buddies they both used to know. Then Big I asked Young Pooh what he looked forward to most when he got out. Young Pooh didn’t even have to think about it – he had it all planned out. “I’m going down to the connect and get high. I can’t wait to fill my nose with the finest powder around. Man! I can’t wait!” Big I agreed, and they continued their discussion, noting the best places for white powder. It sounded like a drug-users Yelp! These guys were ranking drugs by stars! They knew people who had used the connect and certain drugs, and highly recommended them. Really, reviews??
It was funny to hear, but I was also deeply saddened. I knew these two men, with funny names, would not only be freed soon, but would eventually end up right back in. It is obvious neither knew God. Their conversation ended when the flock of officers came in to escort us back to the Hole. Handcuffed and with a three-officer escort per inmate, we marched down to the next stage of the process. There I saw a third man standing quietly.
“Hey, you a Cristiano?” He was asking if I was a Christian. His question took me by surprise, because certainly this man had never met me before.
“Si, si soy” I told him. But I was still surprised by his question. “Why?” I asked.
We were still cuffed, so he was squatting, trying to scratch his nose with his knee. “Because you look like one,” he said. What?? How does one look like a Christian, especially in the Hole?
Jokingly I said, “So my bald spot gave it away. Kind of looks like a halo, right?”
I don’t think he thought that was funny, but kept talking. “I just got married, right before coming to the Hole.” He paused, wondering how much to share.
“Lucky you,” I said.
He smiled, “Yeah, she’s a princess. I can’t believe she loves me. I love her like nothing before. I want to change for her. But I always seem to get it wrong. I want to be a Cristiano like you. But it’s not easy.”
I knew I would not have the time, or opportunity, to begin to give him a full answer, so I went short and sweet. “You have to stop trying to be a Cristiano, and start having a relationship with God.”
“How do you do it?” he asked, in a very sincere way. He truly wanted – needed! – to know. “I have tried, pastor, but it’s too hard.”
“You fell in love by getting to know your new bride, right? So in a similar fashion, read God’s Word. Fellowship with His family. Pray. Get to know Him. And I promise you, you will fall in love, and you will experience a relationship that is a whole lot easier than just trying to be a Cristiano.”
That’s all I could share. The officers were ready to take us away. One by one we were escorted, each man to his cell. I never got his name. But as I meditated, I realized this man’s desire to know God was what every inmate needed. The two who didn’t know God would eventually come back to prison because they had a long-standing relationship with sin. The third man, however, I believe will find that relationship he is seeking. Once he does, he will never want to come back. Because once someone truly falls in love with the Father, it takes more effort to sin than to obey.
Maybe you’ve been fighting hard to “be a Christian.” I suggest you stop trying, and start having a love affair with the One Who loves perfectly.
Get to truly know Him by opening up His Word and reading it. Surround yourself with others who are head-over-heels in love with Him, too. And talk to Him. Do these things and I promise your relationship will surpass any desire to be a “better Christian.” You won’t care about the label. You will be in love.
……….trying to cover my halo with a comb-over……….
Adrian G. Torres