“I forgive you” were the words I had always wanted to hear; it took a prison yard to hear them.
I had grown up in a family with 6 siblings who had three different dads, with another 6 brothers and sisters I never really knew, 12 all up. Though Mum did her best, her alcoholism always affected our family, and violence was never far away. The various stepfathers were never nice guys.
I remember breaking into my first house at 8, taking my first drug at 13, and moving onto intravenous drug use at 16. This led to a 30-year cycle of crime and drug use which led me to half the prisons in Western Australia and a feeling that I would never amount to anything. I had moments of hope. I could get clean, but could not stay clean; I could get a job, but I could not hold a job; I could get a girl, but the drugs and lifestyle always destroyed my relationships. Nothing ever lasted.
I first came across Prison Fellowship in 2008, though it was my last prison sentence in 2014 that I really tried to find out if this Jesus character was real. I wanted to seek the truth, as my whole life was one great big lie.
I attended Prison Fellowship sessions to the best of my ability with an open mind and for once tried to take my ego and pride out of the picture. My best thinking on how to do life had landed me in prison again… maybe I was the problem, not the world around me. Maybe if I could shut up and listen for once in my life, then maybe there could be hope for me.
During this sentence, I decided to come off methadone, and spent many sleepless nights in my cell reading my bible, praying and reflecting on my life. I continually asked God to show me if he was really there and if he really loved me. He showed up when I least expected it.
Words cannot express what happened that day at 4pm, in a prison yard while we were on recreation. It was real and it was powerful, that is all I know. That is all I need to know. The feeling of forgiveness and love that came over me I hold onto till this day, 6 years later. Knowing the grace and love of God through his son Jesus has kept me from ever going back to prison, I now do not drink or take drugs, have just finished a year of study in counselling/community services and work doing outreach work at “Under His Wings Outreach Centre” in Armadale. Working with people from all walks of life, including men who have been in the prison system.
Muhammed Ali once said, “If you’re 40 and think like a 20-year-old, you have wasted half your life.” It took a real man, the man of Jesus Christ, to show me how to live and take responsibility for my life. I mean if I was going to spend my whole life trying to be one of the boys, then that is what I would always be: a boy. I mean, Jesus himself said, “When the blind lead the blind, both end up in a ditch.” Well, in our case, prison.
Through Prison Fellowship and other servants of Christ who have guided me since leaving prison, I have now found the purpose, hope and love I was always seeking. All I had to do was swallow the pride that was not serving me anyway.