“My life didn’t turn out at all like I thought it would” he said, wiping away the tears. That sounds sort of like the Forrest Gump line “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” A 23 year old young man asked if he could speak with my pastor and I after church service tonight in jail. He spoke softly and struggled to get his words out, but he just wanted to get some things off his chest. From what I could tell he was like most of the other men there. He was stressed out about getting out and not knowing when it might happen. He said, “I’m in here for child support, I’m not a criminal.” For the most part we just listened and he knew we couldn’t do anything about his legal troubles. I think he just wanted someone to hear him, and sometimes it helps to just say things out loud.
The young man went on to tell us he has children, and their mother on the outside, he badly wants to see, especially since Sunday is Fathers day. He went to court today, but he seemed to be in the dark about the details of his case. The more he talked the more it seemed to me he was just going to have to learn how to wait. This of course doesn’t sound like the kind of thing he wanted to hear, but the reality is life involves a whole lot of waiting. We wait in line at the concession stand. We wait in the doctors office. We wait at traffic lights, in line at the store, wait for our spouses and on and on.
One thing that is always true no matter if you’re in jail or not. God is all about us learning to walk by faith. The jail is a perfect place to start practicing living in the Spirit is what I told him. When it comes to God things aren’t always what they look like or how they feel. He pulled out a piece of paper he had in his pocket that had a list of goals on it. He began reading them to us and the first four or five involved God and church. “Seems like a pretty good start” my pastor said. He kept worrying about getting out of jail so I said, “It looks like to me the first half of that list are all things that you can start on right now even before you are released. They are all Spirit things, and you don’t have to be on the outside to get going on them.” The young man agreed but you know sometimes there isn’t any words to soothe the problem is there? Only God doing what only he can do can really change things for him. So until then we wait and trust him to do it.
After we prayed with him, we walked with him part of the way down the hall to the guard tower, and parted ways. I don’t know if we’ll get to see him again, but most of us can probably agree with him on one thing. Our lives haven’t turned out quite the way we expected either. The good news is we have a God that hasn’t fallen asleep or been distracted, and he can get us exactly where we need to go if we will simply trust him.