I’ve asked many other inmates this question and the answer most often is, “To be free.” My usual response is, “What’s keeping you from being free right now?” and the obvious answer is, “Look where I am.” “I am, because I’m here with you, yet, I am free!” is how I would respond.
Many of us don’t have because we have not asked, and we will not ask because we do not know what we want; therefore, the vicious circle is completed because since we do know what we want, we do not have and are left in a life of frustration.
When the question is asked, “What do you want?” I am not referring to the typical five year or ten year plan of what you would like to achieve or acquire. It is a very simple question, “What do you want, right now?”
A Christian knows this fast even though the thought of it escapes us often: God will give you the desires of your heart. When in a drug ministry in 1993, two friends came to visit me. While talking to the executive director, the question was asked of him, he being in his 70’s, having suffered addiction and starting the ministry in his 50’s, “What he regret the most?” He answered, “Having started this ministry so late in my life.” My friend Robert gave him an answer which has profoundly affected my life ever since. Robert told this Christian thirty years his senior, “Our God has the ability to take the many years of regret and blessings He’s intended for us to have and present it to you in twenty seconds of time, so you have not missed anything!” Considering this truth seeds were sown within my heart that when I live for God, I can never say I had not been given whatever it is He has wanted me to have.
While it is true many of us want the wrong things and if given would be abused and often the means of our destruction, the fact remains God is more than willing to give you whatever you need if you are willing to sit still long enough and begin to understand what are the desires of your heart. It goes much deeper than the obvious of wanting to be, “free”, because we find ourselves incarcerated. I believe this is God’s solution to helping us realize what is important by stopping our maddening rush to nowhere.
What do you want?
For years God as asked me this very question and I would respond, “Whatever it is You want, Lord.” The problem with this answer is: I do not know the mind of God concerning me. Then I learned how to answer it differently by responding, “To be saved” only to realize although commendable but this is His purpose for me, too; but, it is not definitive enough as an answer to a God Who is very specific.
When we say the obvious as a direct result of our current place of existence, “I want to be free” of what? Just free of being in prison? What caused us to be locked up in the first place? Wouldn’t it make sense to pray to be free from what became the problem in our life which caused the eventual arrest? Wouldn’t you rather be free from this? What good would it serve you if you’re in prison because of drugs and yet be freed and still drugs will be a factor of your life to give the inevitable return ticket to where you are now sitting? We have to search deeper within ourselves for the desires of our heart.
Certainly, now, I want to have a family, be a good husband and live a quiet and simple life which means without the events of my previous life, therefore my “wants” should be germane to the ultimate goal. I need the change of who I have been to change so I can be the person who will have the family be responsible enough to handle such an awesome privilege. God is not just going to make me a husband and father without first preparing me, especially if it involves the lives of others.
It is not by coincidence as I began my devotion this morning and read Psalm 145:16, 19 (NIV);
“You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him.”
What is the inverse of these verses? Those of us who do not love Him, our lives will go unfulfilled. We will always be in want. He is the key to receiving anything and everything which will make us happy. He will not withhold anything from you. Doesn’t it make sense, then, to give Him His due and with an open and honest heart begin the process of getting what He wants to give us by first giving Him what He wants: our undivided attention?
After all, who else is going to listen and take you seriously where you are? Even the passing guard walks past without giving their attention. Getting God’s attention only requires the statement, “Our Father…”
Permit me to share with you a miracle I call, “The Miracle of the Soap”.
When I was placed in the reception prison, “Downstate Correctional Facility” coming my county jail, I was confined without anything. Sure, I was given the toothbrush, soap, linen but being in the month of July, hot and without deodorant can and will be a problem. I’m one of those who sweat while sitting still reading a book. I do not have to be active in order to sweat.
Two weeks into my time and continuing the fight against body odor I got the idea to use the soap as a form of deodorant. The problem is, I have to use certain deodorants as well as certain types of soap otherwise I develop a rash which is very irritable and uncomfortable. Looking under my arms I knew I would have to put in a medical request although it would be a waste of time because they will not give me what I needed, only something for the symptoms. I needed either the proper deodorant or at the very least the proper soap.
Sitting on my bunk, as times previous, God spoke to me. He said, “Why don’t you ask Me? I’m your Father. Ask Me for what you need.” I did. At that moment I prayed asking God for soap. Not long after I made my request, I heard a sound near my door. I got up and there near the opening at the bottom where they can hand you a tray of food was a bar of Irish Spring unopened! I reached out to get it and then said thinking I was to push it to someone else, “Who’s this for?” The guy in the next cell said, “It’s for you!” I was amazed. I asked the guy to come to his door, not because I could actually see him the way we our cells were positioned but so I could speak to him without raising my voice. I asked him why he did it. He told me this: “I was sitting here and, I don’t know if you are a believer, but God told me to give you this soap. My struggle was, I wanted to give you this used one because my commissary isn’t for a while, but God told me He would make it last and to give you the new one. So, I did it.” I started crying and said to him, “Brother, I am a believer and you have no idea what you did. You were the answer to my prayer. I had just finished praying to God asking Him for soap because I’m having a medical issue and this will solve the problem.” In fact, it is the very same soap I use when I’m free! And, it has a deodorizer contained within the formula.
Discussing our relationship with God, the brother said to me, “I hope you will not be angry, but you’re in prison because of me!” I asked him for clarification. He told me he wanted to write and publish a book and get onto the speaking circuit to share his testimony and because this is what I have done, I was sent to him to help him, in answering his prayer! It was at that time I recognized I was where God wanted me to be. This is the first instance of many others which confirmed my being in prison was due to God’s wanting me to be here. Now, I know it sounds crazy and maybe you might think I’ve hit the pipe one time too many, but I am convinced God often sends His people into places in order to reach someone. How many are called into missionary work, visiting countries where their very lives are endangered either by the people, land or animal/bug life? Yet, they go because they’re called to go and are not fulfilled unless they do what God has called them to do. I now understand this—personally.
I’ve been out now for six months as of this writing and I’ve looked up the brother and haven’t been able to find him; however, I have to trust as he was used for an answer to me, and believed I was the same for him, God would have answered both our prayers. How He does it, it is not for me to know, but I know this: what I wanted then, I received. What I want now, will come, too.