I want to share a brief story of a guy who changed my mind about something. My new friend has been living out the past several years in prison. Before I ever met him, I was the guy hired to share my story of freedom from homosexuality with a group of inmates. There was more fear and trepidation in my heart than when I heard that Oprah was starting her own network, but I pressed through. As we walked through the Jurassic Park style fences, the heaviness of that place began to complement my fears. My excitement began to slowly triumph every other emotion. I was led to believe that myself and a two others would sharing our stories, briefly. My talk would amount to 20 minutes, then we’d spend the rest of the day fellowshipping. I was handed a flyer for a conference. My name was at the top. Unbeknownst to me, I was pretty much, the entire conference. Instead of the normal 20 minutes most churches begrudgingly give, I’d been given two and a half hours. Anxiety replaced everything else. What was I supposed to talk about for almost three hours?
Every passing interaction piled a bit more humility onto my plate. Any amount of pride, contrite “brokenness” and entitlement I’d felt as the guest speaker faded. The inmates wanted to share their testimonies with me. “With me?,” I thought. “Who am I?” I was also asked to proofread a testimony from the guy I mentioned above. “Was I anyone to judge the life of a man I’d never met, based on the premise I’d somehow ‘arrived’?”
The first amazing moment was hearing the testimony of an inmate who had never shared his story before. He spoke only Spanish, but it was his desire to share his story with me. He shared his own words in his native language as an interpreter revealed their meaning to me. What an amazing gesture of intimacy and trust between two men. Once again I asked, “Who am I?” What an honor to hear their stories. I’ve encountered “free” men who have committed horrendous offenses, but hadn’t been caught like the men before me. In some ways the inmates were better off. Having been caught and punished for their offenses, most had repented of their sins. They’d been granted a fresh start. The men on the outside, though not captive behind physical bars, are destined to spend life bound in an emotional prison by their repetitive and unrepentant sin.
There I was in the midst of men, chronologically aged, but mentally the equivalent of a 7th grade soccer team; each one still searching for some level of acceptance and affirmation from a father. Then my anonymous friend took the stage, dressed in blue scrubs, looking more like a doctor prepped for surgery than a prisoner of the state. He shared his story. I witnessed the triumph and anguish of the soul I had “edited”. Throughout the conference he scurried about, working to ensure we had everything we needed. This man had worked 8 times harder to put on this conference than I had. He was building and investing in his “hometown”. I was the out-of-towner who would swoop in, do the least amount of work and get all the accolades once the lights had faded. I was only in the clouds for a moment. God allowed the whole experience to humble me yet again. He gave me one simple, contemplative thought that would haunt me for weeks. “You often wear your testimony as an emblem of pride and accomplishment, prostituting yourself out to the crowd in return for their cheers. You portray yourself as a modern day hero, but it is only through the heroic efforts of Jesus Christ that you are even still alive to gloat. Yet, my unnamed and unheralded prison disciple, wakes each morning, bows his knee and thanks Me through his tears for prison walls that brought an end to the sin that held him fast and a beginning to a life of Godly surrender and true freedom.”
I left the prison that day forever changed. There is nothing I could ever do to earn God’s grace. The humbling I received was not about the lack of work I was doing on a daily basis. It was about the lack of gratitude I had for the Person who had done all the work for my salvation. I realized that my new path consisted of two choices: to live selfishly or to live gratefully. I am not privileged with the choice as an American. I am freely given and encouraged to choose gratitude as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Father God, help us this day to live gratefully in Your presence. To lead lives not governed by our sexuality or our “rights” as Americans, but governed by the authority of Your word and Your grace. Jesus, Your name is the power to set people free from cluttered minds, random addictions and the darkness of sin. Thank You for setting me free from a life that held me fast way too long and for not writing me off for my choice to sustain a life of sexual brokenness for so long. Father, I ask for deliverance for the gay community, the leaders, the followers and the trapped. I know how real it can feel. Redeem and rescue your sons and daughters in the gay world today Lord. Let the gifts that you have created in men and women be used to bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Amen.