Not Knowing is the Worst

( A true story, names have been changed)

Stench from a hundred prisoners assaulted Albert’s olfactory canals. Daily vexations seemed heightened today. A cacophony of filth constantly spewed from lips of men insensate to blasphemy and cursing. A scripture came to mind: “…He rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless.” (2nd Peter 2:7 NIV)

Rolling onto his side, Albert wrapped a makeshift pillow of two tee-shirts around his head, retreating to an inward search for solace. Pain pricked his heart whenever he considered it: I too wear the orange jumpsuit of a criminal. Yet, his redeemed soul could still sense God’s love. In a fetal curl, he again resorted to prayer, which, always seemed to elevate the repentant man to a higher plane, where circumstances could not reach.

Heavenly Father, I Know I’m here because you love me. I still believe in your love, not in spite of my situation, but because of your chastening. Thank you for the lenient sentence in this county jail. But Lord… I’m distressed over charges still pending for the same crime of prescription fraud in the next county over. What will happen? Sincere tears began dampening his head wrap.

My new wife is pregnant! Oh Lord, I can’t bear not knowing! I could be sentenced to eight more years! Please Lord… Reveal my future to me. They won’t take me to court there, until my time is served here. The questions had become repetitious.

There remained no murky wonder in Albert’s mind over why he must endure the hardships of living a life of faith behind bars. In fact, his arrest was an answer to prayer. Having become addicted to pain medicine that his doctor had prescribed, Albert had begun fraudulently obtaining pain-killers to feed his habit.

Praying for forgiveness daily, he tried to quit, but the drug had an iron grip. Until, his prayers took on the surrendered urgency God seeks. “Lord, I can’t do this alone. Please help me get off of these drugs. Whatever it takes, Lord. Anything! Whatever it takes.”

The next morning detectives had shown up at his house with a search warrant. Albert knew it was God’s answer: forced abstinence from the drug. So, he confessed. “You don’t need to search, it was me. I impersonated several different doctors and telephoned in my own prescriptions.” Pausing, his head dropped to stare at his own shoes. “And I did it many times.”

Fifty steel bunk-beds in columns of five lined the large, third-level floor. Perched center-room, an elevated correctional officer was stationed for optimal viewing. The officer barked, “Lights out in five!”

Descending his roost, the C.O. patrolled the floor between rows of double-beds. “Time to sleep.”

Some unknown prisoner vied for tough-guy points. “Shut-up, cop!” A smattering of chuckles ensued.

“Say that to my face prisoner,” the officer retorted.

“Why don’t you make me, cop?”

Wisely, the officer gave no more response. So, the troubler used a cartoon gangster voice. “Come get me copper!” This brought a roar of laughter, and ended the covert comedian’s performance.

The guard checked the bathroom before returning to his post. Prisoners were permitted to use the toilets at night, yet strict rules applied. No meet-ups, no lingering, and you’d better be relieving yourself.

Albert drifted off into a dead-sleep.

That night, at an unknown hour, Albert woke to find himself moving towards the bathroom, a bible in hand. Wrapped in peace, it felt as though he was not travelling under his own power. Once beneath the dim bathroom light, he opened the bible. His eyes fell to see one section of the page unnaturally bathed in brightness.

“I am with you and will save you,’ declares the LORD. …I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you but only in due measure; I will not let you go entirely unpunished.”( Jeremiah 30:11 NIV)

It suddenly struck him: This is the long awaited disclosure from God. I will receive more jail time from the final charge, but whatever comes, You are with me, Lord. In his mind it was a lucid answer: In due measure! It means in the measure of Your unfailing mercy. I won’t receive man’s skewed justice, but God’s true justice.

Albert’s crime had been a victimless one. Yet, others were suffering because of his incarceration. Seven months later, seated next to his wife and six month old son, He stood to hear his sentence.

“One year on home detention.” The drug-free Albert was going home.

Sheldon K. Bass, Indianapolis Indiana