I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve as Vice President of the N.A.A.C.P. Prison Chapter in the institution where I’m housed; my responsibilities are numerous and keeps me busy. While on a particular mission the other day, I was walking down the hallway and saw that there were some new inmates walking in a single-file line and being escorted by two Sargent’s. As I walked by, one of the Sargent’s made this comment: “Some of these guy’s are so happy to be in prison.” (this same person has a habit of making nasty comments about inmates that are attempting to better themselves)
I must have been wearing a smile or it may have been that my general attitude was upbeat and positive. I was also carrying a portfolio with NAACP paperwork in it in one hand, and in the other hand, a typewriter. On top of that, I greeted and was friendly toward certain other correctional staff as I passed them in the hall (I have nothing against them, my decisions put me in prison).
Don’t get me wrong, this is not a complaint against the Sargent for uttering her nasty comment when I walked by. However, I do remember thinking, “She has it all wrong. I’m not happy to be in prison. I’m happy despite being in prison – there’s a BIG difference.
My joy doesn’t come from anything external; it starts inwardly and expresses itself outwardly – overflowing onto everything I do and touching everyone I come in contact with. The stereotypical view of a inmate is that he must walk around frowned up and miserable all day long. He must be angry at the world and must blame everyone for his bad decisions and transgressions.
I must say, I’ve had days where I fit that mold. However, that is not where I am as a person today – true transformation has taken place; making positive changes in ones life is an ongoing process of maturation, but we never become a perfected product by any means. In other words, no matter how much progress we make in any area of our life, there’s always room for improvement and growth.
The most beautiful flower can bloom and blossom while being surrounded by manure – I’ve just come to the point where I choose to be the flower – not the manure.
Some might even think, “that’s not the picture of a remorseful man.” I would beg to differ. For many years, the words, “OH MY GOD, WHAT HAVE I DONE!” went through my mind when I thought about my victim and what I did to her. What followed that was a slow decension into a deep, dark, pit of depression. In that pit, each of my sins took turns whipping me mercilessly. I lived this way off and on for a long time. I thought about the people I hurt and let down by my actions and the pain intensified. There is no possible way a person can remain in that state of mind, year after year.
There has to be a point where you come to terms with the things you’ve done and seek forgiveness from the source of all Love – God, through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. After I received God’s love and forgiveness, I began the process of forgiving myself. I did this in full knowledge that others might not forgive me as easily – if they ever forgive me at all. I confessed my sins to God and cried my heart out – leaving all of my mess at the Cross. Now, as I spend time with God each day, He strengthens me and deposits such a joy in my heart that it seeps out and touches those around me.
While I am very cognizant of my past, it no longer drags me to the ground like a UFC fighter and puts me into its submission hold. Instead, I use it (my past) as motivation to fuel me to be a better man. That’s a lot of motivation.
This is the reason why I can walk around a prison with more freedom in my heart than someone in the outside world with all of their liberties. Jesus Christ is the reason for my new disposition and heart transplant, so to speak. I’m a new man (inwardly), wearing the same earth-suit as I did in the past. While others see the same person (outwardly), they know that something has definently changed throughout the course of my life.
I’m happy to share what has happened to me –
I’VE BECOME A NEW CREATURE!
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17)
Tony Rahmel Smith
Categories: Tony Smith