Not a very popular idea in this me-first world we live in and definitely not something for a prideful, arrogant man to experience willingly. To have such a man debased and set aside by those who had followed and respected him was a blow that would crush his spirit. Further, to not be able to find any meaningful work after over 450 attempts. Oh, from the title you expected this would be about Saul of Tarsus, sorry but it is my own tale by which I by no means compare myself to my brother Paul, simply that it reflects how God does often work.
I did make a profession of faith and surrender to Christ within 3 weeks of arriving at Central Prison; my growth as a disciple was haphazard at best as I continued throughout my stay in prison to deny my guilt. My fear was if I ‘fessed up’ my family and wife would abandon me as I had plead not-guilty and cost my family a significant amount of money. This was something I wrestled with for the entire time I was in prison and for years afterward. That refusal to ‘come clean’ kept me from much of what God would have done for me; “I” was still primary and on the throne of my heart as reflected in some of my behavior after coming to Christ. Time and again I had people tell me that my story reminded them of Joseph (Genesis 30 and following) for my being imprisoned unjustly. After a time, I actually began to believe this, and when reading Acts 9 and studying it, I began to feel that this was my time of humiliation.
Jay Thomas is the pastor there and was a wonderful expositional teacher of Scripture. I really felt this was where God wanted me and so my wife and I became members. Sometime later, while Jay was teaching through the Gospel of John, he said something that pricked my heart about my continuing disavowal of my guilt. After the service I spoke with him briefly, asking for a time in the coming week when we could meet. At the same time, I knew that I had to speak with Jim Abrahamson as well, but most of all with Kathy. I feared that she would be so angry with my lying over the years, that she would toss me out. When we got home, we sat together in the living room of our home, and I confessed to her what I’d done. She did not want to believe it at first; that was difficult as how do you tell someone you love deeply that you have lied to them for over 28 years?
450+ applications using a variety of online and other services led to nothing more than the sound of crickets. No one seemed to want to hire an ex-felon, even those companies that specialized in such gave me a pass. It was humiliating to me not to be able to find work other than with Measurement, Inc., a company that had hired me as a reader while I was on work release. The work there was definitely seasonal and not really enough to be a real help in making me feel as though I was ‘head of the household.’ Yeah, that pride thing was still working. Once I passed the age of 62, a friend suggested I check what I could get from them if I ‘retired’ compared if I waited until 65 or 70. Due to the time in prison, there was really no difference, so at the end of that month, I filed for Social Security. That paltry sum I began to receive did help, combined with the episodic checks from Measurement, Inc., but still left me wondering if that was all I could expect.
Sitting in this man’s car and talking about life, especially for those who have come out of prison, combined with a speaker at a conference I attended as a USO-NC volunteer, opened my eyes to the fact that I had PTS. To say that the VA hospital was less than helpful would be putting it mildly, but with the help of Senator Burr’s office, I finally was not only diagnosed with PTS but given a disability rating that enabled me to receive over $1,000.00 every month. Still, it wasn’t work and sitting at home everyday (when not volunteering somewhere) just made me feel all the more worthless.
I checked the website of this company everyday (sometimes more often) and was elated when I saw the position listed. Within an hour I had transmitted my cover letter, resume and other material requested; then I waited…and waited…and waited. Later that month, the position was no longer on the website; apparently, they had filled it without even calling me in for an interview!
It seemed that no one was interested in hiring me; despite our hopes, we were back to ‘normal’ with me the house-husband and Kathy working. I was REALLY frustrated and angry but was at the point in my walk with the Christ that despair and depression did not happen…much. Then this past week it was as if cotton wool had been taken off my eyes (nothing to do with my new Rx of glasses); if all I could do was serve others through my volunteer activities, then that is what I would do. Today I was reminded by an old friend (Chuck Swindoll, Insight for Living) of something A. W. Tozer wrote some time ago that has been true in my life over and over.