By Alex Anderson, Senior Associate Pastor at Bayside Community Church
A Change in DestinyJerry sat patiently in his shiny black Chevy Silverado in the same spot by the playground like he had done for the last four weekends.
He reached over and picked up a brown paper bag, took out and slowly unwrapped his favorite mid-
morning snack…a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Jerry would only use the creamy peanut butter because the crunchy kind made his teeth hurt…a problem he had lived with ever since he had barely survived a kick in the head by one of his grandfather’s horses at three years old.
As he sipped his black coffee and ate he smiled to himself and wondered why he had not thought of this earlier in his career. It was the easiest money he had ever made and was a lot easier than painting houses for that no good father of his.
Across the street about three-quarters of a block away a man came out of his house, opened the door of his suburban and started the engine. The exhaust on that cold November morning created a small fog of burnt gasoline fumes that rolled down the sloped driveway towards the street. The man shortly went back inside of the house and left the suburban running.
Jerry took the last sip of his black coffee and looked at his dashboard clock and thought…’right on schedule’.
Before he could look back at the house all four doors of the suburban were open and a young family was piling in…headed for church like they had been doing for the last four Sundays.
As the suburban pulled away from the house Jerry cranked his truck, glad to have the heater on, and drove past the house with a smile. He circled the block behind the house to a vacant wooded lot, parked his truck, walked through the lot, jumped the back fence and…robbed the home.
As Jerry told me this story I could sense the remorse in his heart as his eyes began to tear up. He had already paid for his “sins” against humanity…twenty-two years in prison.
I have heard many stories like Jerry’s over the years as a pastor, but how he ended it compelled me to share.
Jerry had not been a violent criminal, as a matter of fact, he was a very gentle soul and was a model inmate, even to the point of being paroled a couple of times for good behavior but he would shortly end up back in prison.
In his own words, “Back then, when I would get paroled I would still hang out with the wrong crowd. They would even say the same thing to me that the other inmates would say when I got paroled…’see you soon’.”
According to Jerry the last time in the prison something happened that changed his destiny and it was why he was not still there.
Local churches sent people into the prison and held church services for the inmates. Jerry was one of those who became a Christ follower through that ministry.
Jerry also realized that he needed new friends once he was on the outside again. And finally, he needed a new identity.
Jerry said that during the two years before he was finally released for the last time, he would go around and intentionally tell the other inmates what his life was going to be in the near future. That he would not only be paroled early (he served 22 years of a total sentencing of 30) but once out, he would make new friends, go to church and obey the law.
All those things came to pass. Jerry kept his word and is a successful mid-level manager in a service company. He also believed that even though he was a convicted felon, God would provide an understanding employer.
As we wrapped up our conversation, with tears in his eyes, Jerry said that those were church-goers whom he had robbed – the very kind of people that were responsible for bringing him to a life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ.
Jerry’s final words were…”God sure does have a strange sense of humor.”
To your spiritual health,
Alex E. Anderson
Senior Associate Pastor at
Bayside Community Church
Author, Dangerous Prayers