It’s timely that I share my story. Please bear with me…
Twenty-three years ago I ventured to an unnamed country where I committed an offense against the law of this third world country. I was not even sentenced but immediately thrown into a cell with a dimly lit bulb that faded the gruff faces of the other prisoners that packed my cell. Even in the pall, my white skin made me the focus of the haggard prisoners whose jeers and physical torment was the highlight of their day. Even the guard coughed up a wad of spit, hitting me, his target, much to the delight of the pathetic crowd that I was squeezed in with.
Weeping softly, I whimpered for Jesus’ mercy but that only fueled the deprecation of the tormented who now indulged in being the tormentors. I slunk to the floor and slid in the slime that was infested with urine and saliva. Yes, I was guilty but not of this. I didn’t care so much that I committed the atrocity that I did but only regretted in what it resulted with. This was unreal. It was if the pages of the books I had read were now moving only I was included.
Bowls of mush were slid through the bars where men- vultures groped for it while the guard laughed sadistically. As the insect laden slop was greedily sloshed into the hungry mouths, the timid began pecking hunks of it off the floor as if they were chickens and not men. The newcomer did not know the meal code as, before my eyes, the food had been scooped away instantly. Hungrily, I licked the bowl but one of the savages struck the bowl to my face with the back of his hand, bruising my face. My cry of pain was met with laughter.
Day rolled into the days like I had just experienced. Itching and starving, I curled in a corner - hopeless - just wanting to die. Death would be a gift - that is, until the day he came. “He” had no name but was equally shabby yet unusually clean and shaven yet was brutally shoved into cell with me. He seemed, well - humane. He told about how he was unjustly accused to the roar of laughter from the fellow prisoners who taunted him with, “Yeah - that’s what they all say…” “He” had no words of comfort but did ask what my crime was. I began telling him but I was drowned out by the mocking chorus of prisoners who sneered and sentenced the white man with their hate.
Finally, as the gloomy room darkened, save with the light from the single incandescent 40 watt bulb bulb, we could actually whisper a conversation over the snores and cursing of the convicts. Hope rose as we talked in civility. But just as soon as hope dawned, a guard came and dragged him away. The same scenario occurred every day. How I longed for the re-opening daily of the cell when he was manhandled back into the crowded mess.
His presence was so relieving that I neglected even to ask him why and where they took him every night. It didn’t matter as he was here and I could talk to a real person.
How I longed for the darkness because that meant the squalor would cease and I could begin a conversation in peace with him. On this given evening, after trading information about our backgrounds, I found myself describing in detail my crime and as I did so, remorse arose, not because of the filth, humiliation and starvation that I was going through but rather, a genuine contrition. He was a good listener. He had no advice for me only ears to hear. What was exceptionally unusual about this night is that he wasn’t taken away. We conversed all night. I wept silently as I recalled what I had done.
As the morning light began peering through the tiny window, the men began to rouse and the rising magnitude of their cursing drowned out my rumbling stomach that cried out for food. He heard it and peering straight at me, reached into his torn pocket and handed me an apple! A red, fresh, whole apple! I gasped at the sight of it and hesitantly, I reached for the jewel and grabbing it, held it to my breast as if it were my child.
Ugly, fierce growls erupted followed by angry, unending blows of varying degrees that plummeted my body as I clenched the protected prize cowering to the onslaught to take hold of my treasure. As I held it tightly to myself, my dazed and dizzying body jarred with blows unmercifully inflicted. Everything seemed to twirl as I heard, as if it were coming from an echo chamber, his voice yelling, “Stop, stop, stop… stop…”
Sunlight beaming on my face woke me up. Staring at the white ceiling, smelling the fresh breeze that softy waved the light blue curtains and feeling the satin blanket over me, I sat up in the bed stunned. As my mind began to spin with questions and wonderment, he walked in. His smile quelled my head full of wonderment.
Setting a smorgasbord of food on my lap, I opened my mouth questionably. As if he could read my mind, he only said, “Just eat - while I explain.” Time doesn’t permit me to tell you all that he conveyed but he shared with me that the President - The President of this country was his father. He participated in this regime of spending many of his days with the prisoners, never telling them who he was and determining, who, if any among them would actually confess to their crime and would genuinely be sorry, not because of the gangrene that they were subjected to but because they did wrong.
In my case, I was beaten into unconsciousness and was saved by him, who pulled me to my freedom, nurtured me and literally gave up his bed until I was well. All this was done, not because I was innocent but because I admitted my wrongdoing. When his father came in to greet me, I asked him if this is what he did for all the criminals in his country? He smiled, looked down at his beaming son and replied, “No, only for those who are truly sorry for the crime that they committed.” He then added, “You know, this was my sons’ idea, don’t you?”
I dressed in new cloths and thanked them profusely but said that I best be on my way. “Oh no” they adamantly said, “You’re not going anywhere. You are staying here with us - forever.”
Sorry you guys. I lied. This was a story that I made up and as it went through my head, I thought of Col 1:13 this week that says, “He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” As pathetic as my story was, it evoked in me the shocking realization that, for no good of our own, we were saved by the Son “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col 1:14) The Lord says it so much more succinctly!