Waiting for a new beginning isn’t easyGuest columnist
Waiting for a new beginning isn’t easy. The New Year is a fine time to have one, but if it doesn’t happen in January, it may come in the spring, summer or fall. I watched one happen in the life of a young man from a jail and it was heartwarming. He is now a dear friend and brother in Christ. This is our story.
Mike's parents sadly watched as he made terrible choices in his young life. They tried in vain to help guide him another way. But he kept getting into trouble with the police. When he wrecked his motorcycle, he ended up in the hospital. Since he was on drugs at the time, he also faced the worst consequence of his life — jail.
However, after several months of good behavior in jail, Mike was given the privilege of “work release” to return to his plumbing job. Each morning he left to go to work and faithfully returned in the afternoon. Just as I was leaving the jail one afternoon after visiting a young girl inmate, I saw a boy coming in the front door. He looked like the boy named Mike from the picture his mother had shown me.
I got permission from the officer at the front desk to sit in the lobby and visit with Mike before he must return to his cell. He welcomed me by saying, “I heard you were the new preacher’s wife at the church my family goes to.” His smile reached from one dimpled cheek to another. It went straight to my heart.
“Yes, I know your family. It will be great when you can come back too,” I said, hoping for a positive response. I grinned as I said, “Maybe you can get ‘church-release’ the same as you do for your job.”
Mike’s eyes stared at the floor as he said he was embarrassed to face his old friends there. He added, “Miss Lucy, they’re doing just fine without me down there.”
I continued to visit the jail and one day I discovered that Mike sang beautifully to the guitar music from his cell mate. Again, I asked about his coming to church. This time I mentioned the choir.
“We really need your strong voice, Mike,” I said.
He liked the idea.
So the new rule was set for his “church-release” each Sunday morning. The choir director happily received him into the tenor section. The long white robe and gold stole around his neck set the scene perfectly for Mike — the handsome new choir member. After church he always faithfully returned to jail, just as he had promised.
The first Sunday, as we took our seats in the choir loft, I glanced at the row behind me in order to smile at Mike with a whispered, “Great to have you here.”
I was astounded. The man who sang tenor next to him was the stern judge who had sentenced him to jail several months ago. Now they would be singing God’s praises in the same church choir. It was almost too good to be true.
I never got up the courage to ask Judge Cole how he felt about this arrangement. I had no idea how this old traditional, elite congregation would react to the choir participation of an inmate from the country.
But I discovered their love for Mike was very sincere. And there were many happy people the day his final release came. The jail sentence was over. After months of leaving jail to come to church, the whole family could come together.
But the next Sunday Mike was not in the choir. My heart was broken. I remembered sad experiences with other inmates who returned to their old habits. I wondered what Mike would do with his new freedom.
I was relieved when I saw him sitting in the balcony with his parents. He seemed to be attentive, but at the end of the service during the last hymn, he left. His parents watched him go and it was a confusing scene.
In a moment I knew what was happening. Mike had come down the stairs and was coming into the sanctuary to the altar rail. My pastor husband greeted him warmly and Mike whispered something to him. He wanted to re-commit his life to Christ.
In a few moments his parents joined him at the altar and the smiles and tears of joy were indicative of new beginnings in that dear family.
Days of emptiness gave way to days of purpose. Mike returned to school and trained for a vocation. He became a vital part of our youth group, hoping to guide them to profit from his mistakes.
An important dimension of his new life today is visiting inmates in prison. When he tells the story of his teen-age rebellion and hopelessness, it is wrapped in God’s mercy, love and forgiveness.
To this day, as I remember Mike in jail and Mike in church, I believe I know some of that new beginning. It was the first Sunday he was in that long white choir robe with the golden stole around his neck, singing with the judge.
Reach Lucy N. Adams at Lucya424@aol.com or visit Visit www.52hymns.com.