Wednesday, April 25, 2012

49 Days of Grace: Billy

My 49 Days of Grace series continues today with Week 5.  

Time in the Ware County Jail passed very slowly. I mentioned last week my cellmate Ryan, who tired so desperately not to swear in my presence. But Ryan was actually my second roommate after my time in solitary. The first person I got to spend some serious alone time with while in jail was a guy named Billy. When they first put him in the cell with me, Officer Betty told me that he was a hard case who had been moved out of the general population because he had anger problems. She was hoping I might be able to help calm him down. I said yes, but the fact was I was horrified at the prospect of having to live with anyone in a cell, much less someone with a anger problem. I had seen prison movies. I had heard the stories. My prayer life got much better very quickly as Billy moved in...

At first Billy was very stand-offish, and I was very glad. But when you are locked in a cell together 24 hours a day, eventually you begin to talk. We stayed up very late one night and he told me his story. He had been convicted of statutory rape at age 19. The girl was 16. He served 3 years in prison and married her when he got out. He had two years of probation left and he would have completed his sentence and be eligible to have his record expunged under Georgia's first offender law (more on that in a later post). Just weeks before he could have been free of all labels and restrictions, he tagged along with some friends who stole a ridding lawn mower. They were busted, and Billy went down with them. He was now a 2 time loser, separated from his pregnant wife and angry at everything- but mostly himself. I decided that night that the only way Billy could get past his anger at the world was going to be to accept God's grace and forgive himself. And if I could show him that grace was real, then I could make a difference.

The following morning I got out my bible and began to read, as I did every morning. Billy asked me what "part" I was reading, and I told him John 8. The story of the woman caught in adultery, and the story of how Jesus calmed the mob and offered her forgiveness. For the next hour or so Billy talked about unbelievable it was to him that God could forgive him- and that anyone could still love him. I did my best to explain the love of God whose name is Jesus to this hurting, damaged young man as we sat in the most depressing place you can imagine. More importantly, I tired to show it to him in the way I lived in those circumstances. His pain made me focus on what was truly important. Over the next couple of days, Billy began to relax. His anger subsided. We began to talk about all kind of things and laugh together. And at the end of a week he was allowed to go back to the general population. Just knowing that I could offer him grace helped Billy believe that God loved him too. God was working in him. It was a great thing for him. And once again I was reminded that grace was not just a word. It is a reality.

I wish I could tell you that Billy went on to a life of peace and happiness. Truth is I never saw him again.  But God used Billy to continue to teach me the one basic truth I needed to learn over and over again as I dealt with my sin. I was still a blessed son of the living God. And nothing in that cold, scary cell- or in my bleak, uncertain future- could change that. Thanks be to God!

Because of Jesus,

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