Stan looked over at his girlfriend in the bed and said, "Hey baby, I wanna share something with you." She roused and smiled at him. A cute young, brunette with love in her eyes.
"I've heard about how much potential we have in here." He pointed to his head with a couple fingers. "I have this idea where I'd get into routines of developing every part of me with intention. Becoming the very best I can be in every category. Be the best employee, be in the best shape I can be, be just mentally strong, able to remember everything, read super fast, think logically, you know. Be the best husband."
She smiled and said, "I knew my dad was wrong. We might be young but you're so motivated. We'll show him what type of man you are."
There was a knock at the door. Stan got up, put on sweatpants and answered the door. Two serious looking cops saw him and glanced in and saw her in the bed behind him.
"You're Stan Winfield, age 18?"
"And that is Vera Santimony, age 16?"
They both nodded hesitantly.
"Did you know, young man, that to be intimate with a minor is a felony?"
Four years in the slammer trying to fight the system and simmering with rage at his exe's father didn't make him much of a better man.
Then getting out of jail with "sex offender" on his name made it hard to get work, much less a girlfriend, a house, or friends that aren't a little bit shady themselves.
Stan was willing to work hard but eventually after his 21st interview in three months went south, and his bank account was bouncing checks, he needed an escape. He bought a 40. It quickly went to weed and eventually he was slinging meth to pay rent. When he wasn't hustling to survive, he just needed to zone out with TV. Drugs helped cover his despair. And porn brought the only bright spots to his eyes in the ugliness he was surrounded with.
Despite his dreams of reaching his full potential, he had become a man of survival and impulses. His need for cash and immediate pleasures had become his master.
One day, he saw an old buddy at the grocery store. Stan nodded to say hi.
The man ignored him and walked to a different aisle. Stan jumped over to the next aisle and wouldn't let him get away. "What gives, Chuck? We not cool or what?"
Chuck wouldn't keep eye contact. "I'm doing everything I can to stay clean. I don't want my life to look like it did, Stan. I became a Christian and I see a different reality behind this one. But it's so hard to hold onto. Sorry, bro."
That night as Stan was rinsing a couple of dirty cups he prayed, "God, I don't want my life to look like this either. But I just can't seem to escape this."
So when he found himself in jail a month later, eventually detoxed, without the old habits there to cover his pain, he was thinking about that other reality that Chuck had mentioned.
Was there something besides just surviving, or even striving for fame and fortune among your peers? Neither of those were likely his future anymore. He looked at the walls and bars around him. Maybe who I become when no one else sees it, has some consequence. Maybe the most important thing in the world is who I am on the inside, before God, despite the world almost completely being about what others see you do on the outside.
He was sitting with his head in his hands. He remembered his old dream. He looked up. He didn't have to hustle here. He didn't have the temptation of immediate pleasures to cover pain. He had no one to impress. He realized, ironically that this was what he had asked for. God had given him a way to "escape this." He could pursue his old dream of reaching the potential of his mind. Of becoming disciplined in all things. Trying to become his best, whether he made it out of this place or not. And even if no one else saw, God would. And maybe what being in the world did was conceal who you are before God is the most important anyway!
He didn't have work to keep him busy or give him purpose, but perhaps this was the work he could do in this season. He could either be bored, or get to work. Maybe he didn't have a job or a girlfriend and he was in jail as a sex offender, but maybe that stuff didn't matter in the other reality. Maybe God saw him differently than the world.
So he developed a regimen. He had wanted to study so he diligently worked until he had a business degree from a local college. All the while he was keeping a strict workout routine with periodic weight goals. He was reaching them, because what could keep him from doing it here?
He had always wanted to learn a language so with the help of other inmates, within three months he was speaking broken sentences in Spanish and only getting more fluent.
He had always heard people talk about having spiritual experiences, so he decided to try it. He prayed in different ways. Meditating in ways he had heard had worked. He discovered things that worked for him. He requested a Bible and studied it for answers. He started discovering things he had never heard in a church before. Innovative stuff that seemed revolutionary for his life.
He started to be made fun of for singing in his cell. He was okay with that because God was witness to the songs he was writing. If he ever got out he had enough to record an album. If he didn't, it was his art for God.
10 years later Stan spent hours in the library because the guards trusted him. In fact the night manager trusted Stan to lock everything up more than he trusted his employees to do it. The other inmates respected him because he had become a master of his anger and would turn away from fights. He defended the weaker ones at times when they deserved it.
Back on that day when he had his revelation, he didn't think anyone would see it except for God, and He did. But what Stan never expected was that everyone around him was made better because of his hard work.
Raw Spoon, Jan 12, 2023