Upheaval in prison is normal, a new normal for Andrew.

“The mail here gets messed up. Mrs. Marston was very nice to send the money order but they sent it back because it may not have been filled out right. No biggie. My property is not with me and they are moving me to another unit… things are hectic for me, not used to the whole prison life, got caught up in other peoples’ problems. I’m doing my best to stay focused.”

The constant pull from the outside, his family, his church and his dreams, make each day difficult. Every adjustment can be undone with a few angry words or actions and the outside seems further away.

In upheaval, one grabs onto those things that don’t change. Andrew’s Bible has become an anchor that keeps him centered and focused on things that are eternal and do not change. “I’ve learned a lot about parables… very interesting!”

upheavalIn addition to his personal Bible study, he has come to value a community of Christians that gather on Sunday. “I made it to a chapel service this week. We had a guest speaker, Bobby McGee, a man who spent some time in prison and became a song writer. He is now spending more time in prisons all over the country, spreading God’s word.”

Months earlier I had written a Bible verse, 2 Corinthians 5.17, on a piece of paper and given it to Andrew to keep in his pocket as a reminder. It reads, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” He was excited that the speaker mentioned that verse. “Wow! The Lord really has his ways to remind me how important it is to stay in his Word and keep the faith.”

With the detainer resolved (see last week’s post), Andrew was now able to think forward. “I should be eligible to leave the inside in possibly December. There’s some classes I need to take but everything should work out in a decent time.” An argument with a guard would change that timetable, but at least for a short time, he would be thinking about the future rather than the past or present.

Upheaval can be a dead end. For Andrew it is always a detour, making his journey in prison longer but he always doubles back to the path he believes God has for him. And, as I’ve said, his interest in others keeps him from being too self-absorbed. This letter ended with four questions, not one of them a cry for help or sympathy.

“How’s the family? Anything new going on at church? How was New York? Did you eat the pizza you wanted?” (I had written him that we were taking a weekend in New York City and I hoped to eat at John’s Pizza). 

In his next letter, Andrew makes plans for a fresh start on the outside and reflects on the learning experience of prison.

(follow Andrew’s story here every Thursday)