The Unknown

I’ve adjusted very well after having spent most of my adult life in prison. I still think back to my fateful decision in 2005 to go to my victim’s house when he saw me in a store and asked me to come over. He was someone from my past who I knew would be a bad influence, so I almost told him no. I’d gone a number of days without alcohol or cigarettes, but I still had some weed and planned to be done with it too once it was gone. I wanted it gone soon and didn’t have the willpower to throw it away, so my foolish mindset at the time was that smoking the rest of it with this guy was my best option. I first asked him if he would be drinking and he said no. When getting to his house, the first thing he did was take a beer out of his refrigerator. Instead of leaving as I should have, I told myself I could be around alcohol and resist the urge to drink. One day at his house led to another and another. I think it was my third day with him that I gave in and that led me to the worst trouble of my life. I already had an assault charge pending for an incident similar to what was about to occur, but it wasn’t near as serious.

I noticed the trouble brewing in an apartment where I spent the last day with my victim. He continually argued with the woman whose apartment we were in, ripped her phone out of the wall and tried getting me to help him steal some of her property. I ignored the red flags and stayed where I should have known something very bad was going to happen. I still don’t know why he attacked me, but I vaguely remember taking some shots to the face with a beer bottle. Both of my eyes were black; one was swollen completely shut. I also had a head injury bad enough for an X ray, so when I learned a broken beer bottle had been found at the crime scene, I concluded it had been broken over my head. Despite what you may have seen in a movie, beer bottles do not easily break. Whatever force hits a round surface is distributed over a wide area, meaning that force must be tremendous to damage the point of impact. I’ll spare you the gruesome details, but things got uglier and my attacker was laying in blood when I left the apartment. Once I was in jail I knew I wouldn’t be leaving until it was time for me to go to prison.

I dealt with a lot of terrible unknowns after getting locked up. The first one was the worst. For several days following the incident I didn’t know if my victim would live or die. I knew nothing until hearing he was out of the hospital, which brought me great relief. Next was the stress of not knowing how long my sentence would be. Then I accepted an offer of 15 years. After that I had a long time to wonder how much of that time I would spend in prison before getting out on parole. Now I wonder where I would be in life today had I refused to go to my victim’s house, or at least gotten away from him before he attacked me. That unknown doesn’t trouble me, but it sure makes me curious. Would I still be drinking, smoking and getting high? Would I still be alive? The questions could be endless. One thing I do know is I’m an entirely different person now, and the changes in me are much more than sobriety. I don’t watch the same stuff on TV, listen to the same music or talk the same way. It took hard time to straighten me out, and I can now say with confidence that I’ll never return to the troubled and decadent life I once had.

If people were reincarnated as another species that was determined by behavior, as Hindus believe, I would likely be a dung beetle in my next life had I not changed. That’s an unpleasant thought, but my true fate would have been much worse had I died before changing. It’s by undeserving grace that I went to prison instead of the grave. In prison I experienced depression like I never had before, but at least I wasn’t dead and a whole lot of good came from that terrible chapter in my life. It started with misery, but I didn’t know about all the good things that awaited me in the future. Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son (Gen. 37:3), must have felt devastation far worse than mine when his jealous brothers sold him into slavery (Gen. 37:23-28), yet God was with him and he found favor in his master’s eyes (Gen. 39:1-4). He was later put in prison when his master’s wife falsely accused him of rape (Gen. 39:7-20), and even that resulted in good for him. He next had favor with the prison’s keeper (Gen. 39:21-23). Finally, he gained favor with Egypt’s Pharaoh after interpreting a dream for him (Gen. 41:25-43). (It was a different Pharaoh who persecuted the Israelites [Ex. 1:8-14].) Best of all, Joseph’s brothers who betrayed him had remorse and joined him in Egypt to live a good, happy life (Gen. 45:1-21). This is one of many great examples of how God will cause good to come from tragic events. So if you’re going through a hard time in life, my advice to you is don’t let the present overwhelm you when the future isn’t yet determined.

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