Once again I was sitting in a jail cell…you know the story…in and out of jail and institutions…the one who’d never change…
And once again he was sitting in a jail cell…my dad…you know the story…in and out of jail and prison…the one who’d never change…
GOTCHA! Yes…once again we were sitting in a jail cell – together – but this time, just like so many times before, we were there on a mission to SAVE lives, offer HOPE, and set captives FREE…
About a month ago I sat across from my dad as the inmates filed into our meeting. We had one goal – Share the Love of God and help these men to begin experiencing liberty! And it was AWESOME, lives were changed, men were encouraged to TRUST the Lord and find hope DESPITE their circumstances…BUT there was ONE discussion that remains with me to this day.
The man entered our presence extremely angry and irate. He was a combat veteran and his profanity laced tirades were almost too much to handle. He shared his experiences in graphic detail regarding his time in combat and now those memories continue to haunt him. He tried everything; therapy, medication, religious rituals, etc. and now he was sitting in jail because his anger had gotten the best of him.
I sat back on this one and listened to my dad minister to this man…it was one of the most touching moments of my life. He was about to HELP this wounded soldier see a glimpse of hope and healing…he began by sharing part of his story.
My dad was a combat veteran from the Vietnam War. Painful memories and PTSD controlled his life for more than 3 decades. At one point the Department of Veterans Affairs considered his case one of the most severe they’d ever diagnosed. He tried everything – drugs, alcohol, women, anger, therapy, and psychotropics – nothing worked to take away the pain.
That was until he gave his life to Jesus. At 50 years old Jesus Christ found my dad incarcerated and looking at spending the rest of his life in prison. In one decision he gave God control and never looked back. He began reading the bible every day asking the Lord to change him from the inside out. He struggled with the pain and memories, not only of combat, but also the hurt from the wake of destruction that had followed him all those years prior; but God kept reminding him that He was a new creation, His adopted son, and totally forgiven.
When people (and the father of lies) would accuse him and remind him of his past he wouldn’t deny it. He embraced it as God had embraced him as his son. He held on to Jesus and kept asking for healing – not only for himself but those he’d wounded; his ex-spouses, children, friends. And as the days passed a new light began to shine and a deep healing was taking place. Inside him and in those he loved. And then one day it happened…
The memories were still there but the pain was gone. He had been SET FREE!
He explained this to the inmate and the man BROKE into tears. This was what he longed for and we prayed for him. And I sat back and thought to myself, “My dad is absolutely right. The memories don’t leave us, but the pain does. This is a POWERFUL MESSAGE that so many people need to hear.” We think because we still have certain memories that we aren’t experiencing healing – and that is a lie. The memories may never leave us but the pain can be dissolved through God’s healing touch. Amen!
For so long I couldn’t look back at my own story, my choices, and the painful decisions I had made. I blamed everyone and everything for my messed up life. At some point I had to take ownership and place my security in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ. He paid the price and all I had to do was believe it. I had to stop making excuses and start taking responsibility. And guess what, “The memories of my past are still there but the pain is gone.” I am redeemed. I am set free. God took off the heavy chains of guilt and shame and replaced them with a passion to share His love with others. The truth had set me free.
Today I stand with my dad and say, “In Christ we are more than conquerors. The past does not change but the pain associated with it will fade.” Will you join us? Will you trust the Lord with all your heart?
Have a blessed day!