Luke 1:79 – [A light] to shine upon those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet [in a straight line] into the way of peace and serenity. (AMP)
I was hired on a short-term contract to catalog a prison library in a federal penitentiary with an inmate crew to help me. The men lived in the cell block that my husband guarded. "Anything that you tell me will go straight to him," I warned them. After completing his PhD, he had become a prison guard, so I followed him in, not long after, to try and understand why he'd make such a choice after long years of study. Now, I sat with the men around a table piled with books, while I taught them the Dewey Decimal System — and they began to recite the stories of their crimes.
There, down in the bowels of the prison, I countered with the story of my own life, starting with "Today, I have a choice." I thought of that as I heard their accounts of thievery, betrayals, robberies, cruelties, injustices, assaults and batteries, arrests, hatreds, desertions, and murders. It was as though they were compelled to tell whoever would listen about the worst things that they'd ever chosen to do — especially to tell me, an older woman, a grandmother figure. Often the only people who had cared about them in their lives had been their grandmothers.
"I am what you call a 'straight'," I told them, once I saw how all their stories went. "I choose to obey God in every area of my life." I prayed for them and shared what the "straight life" is all about. Every single one of the gospels mentions the "straight" paths of the Lord. Then, in Acts 9:11, the Lord sends Saul of Tarsus to the street called "Straight" when he turns from his persecution of Christians. What a privilege to be allowed in such company! I said it all again for the last time, when my contract was up, hugging them individually and reminding them that they had a choice.
Not long ago, a young man began walking me home after 12-step meetings, telling me about his decision towards corruption — the same boastful spin that the others had had. Since the prison, I no longer waste time pretending that heading towards evil, away from God, isn't a matter of life or death — the most serious business. He laughed when I finished. I was an old lady. He had years ahead of him, he said, to change his mind.
Last week, his picture was in the paper: murdered, suddenly, in the middle of the day, not far from where we'd last talked.
God has never told us how long the life that He has given us will be, nor do we know the length of anyone else's. So, let us prayerfully take every opportunity to share our faith and hope.
Ecclesiastes 1:15a – If something is crooked, you cannot say it is straight. (ERV)
Prayer: Dear God of our salvation, how thankful we are for the straight talk in Your Word about the freedom that You offer us to turn from our sin, to forsake any path leading away from You, and to accept the grace that You offer us through Christ, in Whose name, we pray. Amen.
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