This past weekend we made a trip to Huntsville Texas for one of our nephew’s high school graduation. I have been back to Huntsville a few times since I was released from prison and once even drove past the Walls Unit. So this time shouldn’t have been any different, but it was. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t prepared to see the prison or maybe I’ve been trying so hard to forget. Either way it caught me by surprise. We weren’t even trying to see the prison; we were just following directions from Google maps. As we turned right off of the main road I saw a sign and joked, thinking it was just a sign for the prison office. As I made the turn and looked down the road, there it was. It’s a very old prison with kind of an eerie beauty to it. The architecture is simple and doesn’t really look that big from the outside. Guard towers on all four corners manned with armed guards.
I have to admit, my stomach dropped and for a moment, I was back inside those red brick walls. I was only in that particular prison for about 10 hours but that is where my stay in the Texas prison system ended. I can remember that day like it just happened yesterday even though it’s been 17 years.
I can remember leaving the Holiday Unit that morning. It was the day of my release, the day I thought I was prepared for. I was so excited! I packed all my things and said goodbye to my friends. In all my excitement I didn’t have time for God, I was being released. I wasn’t as prepared as I had thought. If I would have been then God would be at the front of my mind, but He wasn’t.
The days following my release I tried to find Him, I tried to “reconnect”, refocus. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t because I was drowning in my new freedom. It was overwhelming, so much so that it blinded me from the relationship I had with God just days before. I wasn’t prepared.
As the days turned into years I grew farther and farther away from God. My sins and my rebellion grew at a staggering rate. For years I hated God for leaving me and allowing me to be that bad person I was. I had myself convinced that it was Him that abandoned me, that it was all His fault.
The reality is, I left Him. That day when I woke up to be released, I left Him; I traded my relationship with Him for the excitement of being a “free man”. I wasn’t prepared.
You see, the devil is smarter than we give him credit for. Not only is he smarter than we are, he is very patient. Waiting for that moment that we let our guard down. That moment when we stop walking with God and start walking in our self.
Being a Christ follower is so much more than going to Church and changing our lifestyle. It is a war and a battle. One that must be fought every day, every second. It is a war that if we’re not totally committed to God in then we’re actually fighting against Him. It is a war that even though I was warned by quite a few people inside those walls, I wasn’t prepared for outside of them.
I have learned that if I’m going to make a Kingdom difference in this war, it is crucial that I prepare daily. I must die to myself daily. I have learned that it isn’t about me; it’s about God and His Kingdom.
I still make mistakes. I still have days that I am not prepared. Some of those days it is hard to reconnect with God. It starts with repentance. God can’t connect with us while we’re covered in sin.
When I was surprised by the sight of the Walls, my stomach dropped. I was reminded of me abandoning God and trying to live life without Him. I am nothing without God. These past few years I have come so far in my walk with Him.
Being released from prison can be an overwhelming ordeal. I pray for all the men and women who are about to experience it for themselves. I pray that they don’t lose focus like I did. I pray that they take the needed steps and preparation for their physical freedom.
We are always here and available if you need help or guidance. Be blessed and remember that our strength as Christ followers comes from Jesus not ourselves.
In Christ alone