Letters from Jail # 3

Image result for spirituality in jail*The following are excerpts from letters I wrote while serving a 360-day sentence in county lock-up. I have edited and arranged the material for readability.

 

 

 

 

Began:  May 29, 2013

It has been a rough day. My mood is mildly depressed. Incredibly, my moods have been exceptionally stable considering where I find myself. This is not how I planned spending 2013. My brother said he thought I would emerge stronger. More compassion, experience, and wisdom perhaps, but stronger? I don’t know.

A quadriplegic man once told me I was the most compassionate man he’d ever met. I guess when you have gone through the losses and pain I have experienced you either become cynical or more humane. I’ve chosen the later.

God has used the difficult circumstances in my life to make me more understanding. This experience is definitely a teaching moment, but it is hard to imagine overcoming the criminal element (label). How can I speak with authority? How can Christ be glorified when I’ve made such a mess of things?

It’s hard to know how to feel about being in jail. How can God use this experience? What do I have to learn?

Providence can be defined as cooperating with the grace of God to bring about the highest good and the least evil. I’m not finished cooperating with His grace. I want God to “make something beautiful out of my (messed-up, flawed, imperfect) life.”

I’m rereading The Jesus I Never Knew by Phillip Yancy. He talks about blessed mourners. They are blessed because they are comforted. Thank God for those who have come along and helped. They are blessed because they have hope. We weep not as those who have no hope. They are blessed because they help others. “Wounded healers” know how to help others heal. Those who are comforted know how to comfort others.

The Bible study was poor again. They’re into numerology and sensationalism. It’s tough to go, but I fear my witness will be damaged if I don’t.

One of the men just told me that if I started a church he would attend. I took that as a great compliment. Another man and I talked for some time about loss and the impression negative comments have on our self-image. A new, young guy came in wanting to change his life. I pointed him toward Jesus. Two of these men went to church with me today.

I gave my brother Power-of-Attorney (POA). I signed the papers yesterday. He will pay my bills. I have legal and hospital bills to pay. I hate debt, but somehow, I will crawl out from under it. When I get out I hope to have enough left to get started again.

I’m not staying in Kentucky any longer than necessary. My future is elsewhere. I may go back to Anderson for a while. My brother, J____, is there and a lot of other family.

As I laid in my rack waiting for 4:00 AM med call, my mind turned to my son, A____. I thought, “I could write him.” Please pray with me that I will say the right things and he will receive it. I miss my children and long to reconnect with them.

W____, I’m sure you don’t have a corner on wavering. We all go from mountain movers to doubters, often in the same day. Perseverance is the key.

Tomorrow I will get my hair cut, beard trimmed, and nails clipped. Since I wasn’t allowed to have long hair as a teen I thought I would let it grow until I get out. But, it’s too hard to take care of so I’m cutting it really short. I’m ready to quit shaving. We’re only allowed to shave twice a week with an electric razor that everyone has to use. My nails are longer than they’ve ever been. I hate ‘em. I can’t stand long nails on men. It’s been almost three weeks; I can hardly wait to cut them off.

I’m falling into a routine. I call us “Pavlov’s dogs” because every time the lights come on we know it’s time for a neat trick. lol.

One of our group was released today. Several of the guys stood at the door throwing his things into the hall. Some of the long termers appear depressed. It was an interesting experience to observe. The sad part is the guy will be back. He’s a 12-year-old boy in a 56-year-old body. He has no clue how to live that does not involve drugs, alcohol, sex, and partying.

Reframing is the process of seeing a problem or situation from a different angle. I’m not in jail, I live in a $10 million-dollar home with my own personal security system and detail. My food is prepared in my own kitchen and delivered to my room. I have laundry service, an indoor and outdoor recreation area, nursing staff, and a chaplain that comes twice a week. So many things are provided I never have to leave my home. (Laugh or cry. You’ve got to laugh or cry.)

Only 48 weeks to go. Club Madisonville appears to be working, I have lost 12 pounds. I may come out of here with six-pack abs. : )

Sincerely,

Jay

The LORD be with you.

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One Day’s Struggle Against the Dragon of Depression

July 15, 2017

Today is starting well. It is 5:30 and I’m ready to get up and start my day. But for the sakeImage result for dim light in darkness of Charity (my wife), I will read the news and check out the posts on Facebook until 8:00. Although my night was short, it was five hours of sound slumber without any PTSD dreams to disturb my sleep.

9:30 finds me in the shower getting reading for the day and anticipating brunch.

10:00. On the weekend, Charity almost always fixes a nice brunch on Saturdays. Today it’s pancakes and bacon. While I’m eating my breakfast a cloud of darkness descends and engulfs me in its blackness. I finish the meal with my head in my hands. My plans of putting baseboard down will have to wait.

Why am I suddenly sad? Every reserve of energy has evaporated like the morning mist does when introduced to the sun. My strength is failing as an abyss of sorrow overpowers me. Any will I had mustered for the task ahead, any determination and resolution, and any excitement and joy is being replaced with paralyzing fear and disabling weakness. Why is this happening? Is my tendency toward perfectionism causing me to question my ability? I have been undaunted about taking on projects that I previously had no experience doing. Why has my confidence left me now?

10:30 The night of restful sleep is consumed by my dragon of gloom until I am left chained to the desire for isolation and helpless against my eyelids forcing out the light.

2:00 Nearly four hours have passed. As I slump in my chair in various stages of sleep and wakefulness, my sleep is not deep enough to escape from Saturday’s normal house noises – our grandchildren playing, and Charity coming in to check on me and ask a question or two. Yet, my wakefulness is not enough to move beyond my four-legged dungeon. Only the call of nature makes the foreboding door open, but freedom is not within reach. A tether of sadness does not let me stray far.

2:30 Trying to chase away my dragon with numbing noise, I turn on the T.V. For a few moments as a story unfolds I climb upward, but with each commercial or the end of a story I fall off my ladder of escape. This repeats itself for the next eight hours.

4:00 Charity comes in again as she has done throughout the day. She comforts me with an engulfing hug, a tender and empathetic kiss, and a reassuring, “I love you.” Her kindness and supportive gestures are appreciated far beyond my ability to reciprocate. The bars of the dungeon are too strong and I remain trapped in the dragon’s lair.

Could it be a crisis of confidence? I wonder, looking for answers where there seems to be none. Has my fear of failure reduced me to inaction? Are my perfectionistic tendencies crippling my mind with a fog of mistakes? Bedtime releases me from the dungeon to walk two steps to my bed where the sense of gloom and sadness has me ensconced still.

10:00 As I prepare for the unknown night, the 25th day of my battle with the dragon comes to an end. It has won the day and gained ground. What will tomorrow bring – more defeat, a draw, or a little victory?

As I settle into the bed and pillow my head, I see a ray of light. It is the same Light that has always been there through nearly two decades of battle with the dragon.  It is sometimes so dull and faint the darkness threatens to shut Him out; sometimes bright, shining rays of hope into my despair.

Hebrews 6:18 reads, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast . . .” Hope is the best medicine for despair. If all of the things I treasure are suddenly gone and I still have a dose of hope, I can survive. I can thrive. Someone said, “There is nothing left but to bury a man when all hope is gone.” But, for the Light, however dim, I would be that man. Hope has kept me alive. It is when hope is fed that the shadow of death must give way.

A second thought entered my mind before I went to sleep. What can I learn from this depression episode? Here I confess my independence and the efforts to conquer my dragon by my own power. I need help – the help of God, my family, and my support network. When I humble myself and admit my weakness, that is when I grow in strength. May the lessons I learn be put to good use to help family, others, and myself.

11:00 Sleep joins my hope and willingness to learn, which together provides a peaceful slumber.  My last thought of the night is that tomorrow will be a better day.

May the LORD be with you.