HE FACED TWENTY YEARS

J. Grant Swank, Jr.

He faced twenty years for being accused of a heinous crime.

I was substance abuse counselor at the jail at the time of his admittance.

“I fell to my knees. I cried out, ‘If there is a God, help me. My life is over.’” That was the agonizing prayer of the young, white felon.

“Then I opened my eyes. I stared into the corner of my cell. There was this Bible.”

When I first met Stan, he was walking down the jail corridor to his work station. In his hand he held a Bible. At first glance, I asked him, “Why are you reading that book?”

“Because it helps me,” he answered in a low-key voice.

The next day I asked him the same question. I got the same answer.

The next day I asked him once again the same question. Once again, I got the same answer.

The next time I asked him, getting the same answer, I told him I was one with him. I informed him that I am a Christian.

With that, we became conversational friends in jail.

One day we were talking about the strength the Word provides us when under pressure. He obviously was under a severe strain with twenty years in prison in front of him.

“The more I read this Book, the more the outside world recedes. Now I have read it through three times. I can honestly say that with this Book in my heart, I don’t care any more about the twenty years. If it’s twenty years behind bars, then it’s twenty years behind bars. I accept it as God’s will.”

It is amazing how the Bible can insulate a soul for sound mental and emotional health. The Word is powerful. It can redeem and cleanse. It can rejuvenate and implant hope. It can retrain thought patterns and emotional networks. It can perform miracles.

Stan was experiencing in jail all of these changes within his very person. From the first night, slamming his body against the cell floor in desperation, to this moment of confessing liberation, he had traveled quite the inner journey.

Being in ministry for nearly half a century, I could trust this man to be relating to me the whole truth. He had no reason to fabricate. If he had tried to fabricate, it would have shown itself without doubt, considering the twenty years in prison that was hanging his life.

I promised him that I would intercede for him in my own humble prayers. He thanked me sincerely.

We continued our friendship. Though I was employed in a secular position at the jail, yet there were opportunities for me to speak with Stan, even though briefly, about grooming his soul in the Holy Spirit’s presence.

I could not get over his words about the outside world receding the more he immersed himself in the Word. I thought of how many believers outside jail could come upon such release if they only took the time to do as Stan.

Our lives are so filled with nonsense and worldly lures.

We don’t know the freedom that we could experience if we only immersed ourselves in the Bible with greater discipline. Instead, we content ourselves with a five-and-dime religion of superficial spirituality. Television, MP3s, chit-chat on cell phones, trivia, movies and all the rest of our culture’s sidelines keep us away from soul depth.

Stan came upon God’s treasure house only because his crime had corralled himself inside a jail cell with a Book. That became his key to real-life freedom.

He was imprisoned in a July. By a miracle, the next February he was released. There is no human explanation. It is sheer miracle. It is nothing but the divine hand.

Years have passed.

Stan has proven over time his surrender to the Christ he met in the Book. Today he is a model believer, happily married and rearing a family, serving in his local church and witnessing to the power of God to set a prisoner free.

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