I was asked to sign-up to attend a Church service called “Inherit the Kingdom” while I was at Monroe’s Washington State Reformatory.
Initially I had no intention of going. In fact, I lied to my boy telling him that I signed up and then I acted shocked when he told me my name wasn’t on the call-out.
“Yo thats crazy, so you are tellin’ me my name ain’t on the list…that’s weak because I really was trying to go check that joint out.”
“Don’t worry! You can just come anyways and we will write your name in on the bottom of the list.”
He extended his hand to lock in that agreement. I obliged.
My plan was a bust but deep inside of me something was nudging me in the direction of this service. I had no idea what it was, so I grudgingly stayed true to my reluctant commitment.
Little did I know, my life would never be the same again after going.
This service was not a glamorous service. One held in the beautiful newly renovated main sanctuary of the Religious Activities Center (RAC) where every inch of this building’s interior seemed to be the work of a renowned interior decorator. And the exterior, meticulous with a landscape that was manicured and well kept.
Oh no! This service was held in what was the much smaller, tree house sized, adjacent building with concrete floors, metal fold up chairs, and a constant chilly October breeze due to poor insulation.
There was a scent of damp odor in the room as we began to file in. A scent of mildew like no other.
I walked in with an older partner named Smooth. As an Usher handed me a Bible.
Searching for a couple of vacant seats, I caught the eye of Tank, another partner who was next to the last two remaining seats available of the lopsided circle.
The room goes deathly silent! Rain drops and faint breathing the only audible sounds.
I proceed and take the closest seat to Tank and realize hesitance in Smooth’s movements. When someone offered him another seat he turns it down it haste. And sits to my left. Tank is on my right.
Awkward silence doesn’t even begin to explain as I notice all eyes in the room are fixed in our direction.
I don’t know how this service works but I just assume we are all awaiting an opening prayer or scripture reading.
To busy myself I grab the worn Bible that was handed to me as I entered, which by now I had placed on the floor.
I start flipping through page by page…then it hits me. How did I find myself in the middle of this?
Cautious, confused, and certain this outcome is going to land a number of us in segregation. I instinctually pull up my pants, tighten up my belt, tie up my shoes, and zip up my coat. I am ready for whatever and I know what happens to those who “get caught slippin'”.
That’s when Tank stands up and in his deep omnipotent voice says, “Years ago… I took the life of this man’s nephew…” pointing at Smooth, “while he was sittin’ on death row awaiting execution and now…”
“I forgive you,” Smooth interjects, “I have forgiven you many years ago but have never had the chance to tell you to your face until now.”
Smooth stood to his feet. Every living being in the building stunned.
“I forgive you not for you but for myself. I forgive you because it is commanded of God. I forgive you so I can be forgiven. Tank, I forgive you so that you can forgive yourself and let go of that guilt and shame that has been holding you in bondage.”
Then the unexpected…
Directly in front of me. In the middle of this lopsided circle they embraced. Raw emotion filling this room.
All of this before the opening prayer and scripture reading. We may have bypassed the traditions and formalities but we were having real Church. And someone in attendance would be lying if they said they did not feel the presence of God in the damp mildew reeking room.
Days later I am talking with Smooth and shared with him my own battles with unforgiveness, especially when it came to forgiving myself. But he openly told me, ” I thought I was going to die on that table, I thought they were going to kill me. And I made peace with that. What I didn’t make peace with was that unforgiveness in my heart…when I final did God not only healed my broken and contrite heart but delivered me from death row.”
God truly is able, but are you truly willing? Are you willing to let go of those things that hold you back from receiving what God has for you?
2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”