Initially, I wrote this post on construction2style while incarcerated at Yankton Federal Prison Camp.
Religion (faith) was something that I was raised around but never felt much of a pull towards. Growing up, I felt like I was going through the motions but never felt fully committed.
I went on many church retreats and had fun, but I didn’t like some of the control they administered, such as when you could eat or go to the concessions when you go to bed, how you always had to be somewhere.
During worship services, I watched the people around me, singing, hands raised to the air, and eyes closed. I even tried it once but only felt silly.
My family went to church fairly regularly and was always in attendance for the Christmas service. I usually grew bored and counted the minutes of the sermon as I knew it usually lasted 20-30 minutes.
I grew up, and church exited my life entirely as I went through college. It’s not that I denounced God altogether; I didn’t care whether He existed or not.
If there was a God, why would he let such terrible things happen to such good people? Why would our world be infested with diseases such as childhood cancer, psychopaths that rape and murder innocent people, and He sits back and lets it all happen?
After talking with people, I found out I was agnostic.
Drifting Away from God
Life went on, drugs became a regular part of my life, things got out of control, and I eventually was indicted by the federal government for distributing cocaine, among many other substances.
As I went through pretrial, I remember going to church with my mom and daughter a few times, simply because I liked the idea that my daughter was raised around religion. That way, when she gets old enough, she can make an informed decision on where God stands in her life.
However, I still never felt anything, but I wasn’t exactly looking for anything either. So I went to prison, I still cared too much about what other people thought, and I told myself I would not be your stereotypical inmate who goes to jail and finds God.
Giving into the Pull
So, throughout my time in prison, I didn’t attend any church services or bible studies. It was not until I started being an active member in treatment that I started to think about religion.
I finally started to think clearly and question some of my core beliefs. I also had multiple people in my life that were encouraging me to read the Bible or give God more thought, but I wasn’t there yet.
After I finished prison treatment, I joined a faith-based recovery program, and it was there that I heard the word “Evidence.”
Evidence came into form in how God was working in other people’s lives as they shared their experiences. Over time I started to see how he was working in my life and always had been, but I had just ignored the signs.
Well, I am not ignoring them anymore.
I always had this guard up in my life when anything faith-related was around me. I thought I knew it all, knew what was best for me, and knew what I needed in my life.
But, prison has a funny way of reminding you where you came from and where you fell short.
RDAP was the name of the prison treatment program I attended, and it wasn’t faith-based. I didn’t have a heavy pull towards God during it, but it laid the groundwork and met me where I was at.
Over the year I was in RDAP, many small and big miracles happened that I could reflect on later and acknowledge. I found the courage to reach out to many people I had harmed through my drug use and started to work towards forgiving myself.
However, when I joined a faith-based program, I started to lean into God and listen. After a few months of meetings and listening to other members and how God has been working in their lives, answering prayers, and giving them a different perspective in their daily lives, I knew I had to do something.
Finding a Sponsor and Praying in Prison
I asked Dennis Cockerham to be my sponsor and in return he asked me to do one thing, pray and see what happens. Dennis wasn’t asking me to believe in God but he was asking me to allow Him the chance to answer.
Praying in a prison halway was the single hardest thing I’ve ever done. Keep in mind, I’ve sold drugs, been robbed at gun point, raided, and I’m currently 5 years into a prison sentence.
God started to show up. Prayers were anwered, sometimes subtly and othertimes very aggresively.
I have taken baby steps in my walk with God, and at this point, he’s still often referred to as a Higher Power, but it’s a start. Each time I share my thoughts out loud in a group setting, I feel a stronger pull and know that I am moving in the right direction.
I just got a letter today from my friend’s mom, Diane, and it had a piece in there that spoke to me, “Faith is not about everything turning out okay; faith is about being okay no matter how things turn out.”
It sums up my situation very well, and it just happens to be the attitude I’ve taken in tackling my incarceration. Even though I haven’t been asking God for any help for all these years, I think plenty of other people have done that for me.
I promise, from this point on, I will start listening and stop resisting. I will give in to that pull and let it happen.