“I’m only going to say it once!” the transportation officer yelled, spittle flying with each word. His tone communicated fear and anger. “Once this bus gets rolling…” he paused to emphasize his next words, as if each word was its own sentence. “….THERE.WILL.BE.ABSOLUTELY.NO.TALKING.OR.WE.WILL.PULL.OVER.AND.LOSE.YOUR.PROPERTY!”
The day had arrived, and I was on the prison bus being shipped to my next warehouse…uh…prison. After being waked up at about 3:00 am, dressed in a thin blue-paper jumpsuit, and placed in a stand-up-only cage, I knew the next 24 hours were not going to be easy. I stood in the cage for four hours waiting for the bus to arrive, my back in pain, my hands cuffed in front of me.
Deep within my soul I celebrated the fact that I was on my way to my next stop. Peace and strength were firmly rooted within me, and I continued to pray for more. History has proven that I never do well on any prison bus trips. Not only would my head explode in a fiery migraine, but the nausea that would accompany the migraine would cause me to uncontrollably “share” any previous meals; I can assure you that the 25 other convicted felons on the bus with me, chained foot-to-foot, feet-to-waist, waist-to-wrist, don’t enjoy my freely-offered “sharing.” As I continued to pray for more peace, health, and strength, I remained worried. I had expected this day to arrive, so for weeks and weeks I had been preparing my mind, stomach, and faith for the stresses ahead.
Around 8:00 am I was finally on the bus with 25 other sleep-deprived inmates. The officer in charge began his Hitler-type speech with his “One Rule” – NO TALKING! If he caught anyone talking he would order the bus to pull over and randomly pull out inmates’ personal property, to be casually left on the side of the road.
This one rule was harsh and an abuse of power, but we had little choice but to obey. This was his ship and his crew, and once on the expanse of California highways only his law applied. While in-route the chained inmates have no rights.
As inmates we are used to this kind of treatment. Not all officers so flagrantly abuse their power, but the few who do always seem to be in a position of authority. I’m not sure if it’s the length of time I’ve been an inmate, or the Lord’s peace within me, but I fret little when faced with officers like this. (I wasn’t always so peaceful – it’s been a long road for me.) I’ve come to learn that in the prison world this type of treatment and abuse is normal, and I am only a visitor passing through. One day I will be given my freedom, and leave the prison world to deal with itself.
As children of the living God, citizens of a holy heaven, we are only passing through this world. And we will encounter mistreatment. It’s part of this fallen world – it’s normal. Believers are viewed as enemies of sin, and are attacked from many directions. The deep, dark ocean of immorality tries to swallow believers, to spit them out soaked in sin.
The world’s flip-flopping attitude about what is moral leaves the believer nauseated and unsettled. Biblical truths are combined with error, watering down God’s foundations, giving birth to social faith-clubs filled with hollow pew-sitters. True Bible-believers are viewed as outsiders and enemies of progress.
The world is slowly approaching its death, and many are not ready. It’s not enough to sit around on pews with a simple “pie-in-the-sky” knowledge that one day some “first seal” will be opened and the end will begin. No. We must be prepared. To endure what is to come will take a whole lot of spiritual strength and readiness.
For far too long the church has sat around hoping to be raptured before the end begins. This is a great and wonderful hope. But what if our understanding is wrong? What if the sequence of events many cling to doesn’t fit the teaching of Scripture? What if we have been forcing Scripture to fit our understanding, instead of the other way around? What if the church doesn’t get removed from the wrath of Satan that is coming? What if believers are removed midway through this time of trouble? What if the church escapes God’s wrath only by the skin of its teeth?
No matter where you stand, I believe it’s our calling, as children of God, to be prepared. We must not get too comfortable in a world we are only visiting for a short time. One glorious day we will be called home, freed from this world’s shackles and immorality. But until then, we must actively prepare for a very bumpy ride. We – believers – need to lose the idea that it’s going to be all flowers, butterflies, and utopia while we wait to be removed from this world. Jesus Christ Himself warned that the world would hate us. He pulled no punches, telling us that it would not be easy for us – that believers’ sufferings would be great.
I can’t count very high, but three things I know: First, as believers, our Creator has a plan for each one of us. Second, this world will do whatever it takes to keep that plan from being fulfilled. And third, the end is coming.
So, are we ready? I pray we are, for if we are not the road ahead will sift us through-and-through. In the process, many will be sifted out.
My bus ride was rough, just as I expected. The crew of the ship-on-wheels sailed through slow and sloppy roads. The circulating air inside the bus was stale and toxic. The inmate I was coupled with felt an uncontrollable need to whisper to me all the things he found interesting along the way. And even though the bus didn’t throw anyone’s property out, my property came up missing. Even so, because I was prepared and never allowed myself to take my eyes off the prize, I made it through the sifting.
The trip was far from easy; a few close calls threatened my health and peace, but in the end my physical pre-conditioning, and God’s power within me, led me in victory to my destination.
Again I ask: Are you ready?
…….continuing to prepare…….
Adrian G. Torres