My Broken Heart of Stone
Luckily, newborn babies are unable to form memories, or most likely I would have mental scars from even my earliest days. But the memories I do have from my young childhood are far from normal. I was not the only person to suffer abuse, as both my mother and younger brother also received horrific beatings from the man who was my biological father. He was a man who claimed to love us, yet I still can’t recall one good moment with him.
In my case—and in most other cases of abuse—the pain doesn’t end with being beaten but continues for decades and even a lifetime. Out of fear of greater harm, my mother (the strongest woman I know) endured the abuse until he went too far. That terrible time was a beating that hospitalized both my little brother and myself. Those at the hospital and others who knew our case said that ours was one of the worse child abuse cases they had ever seen. My biological father had a violent history and was responsible for more than one murder. Perhaps it was the violent abuse he received as a child that caused him to grow into the adult monster we called dad.
I was only seven years old and my brother was four when my mother met up with a man who had defended her from my father on previous occasions. This man gave up all that he had in order to care for my mother and us two boys. Family Services gave us a new identity and moved us from California to Washington State where he became someone I could call father. Our new life began there, but the little boy in me had already been badly damaged. Sadly, I came to mistrust this good man, but not just him—I mistrusted most figures of authority. Mistrust developed into a strong dislike, which quickly became hatred.
My hatred wasn’t only felt toward authority, it was aimed at everyone and everything—no doubt even at myself. I fought in school, ran away, and stole cars. My life resembled an airplane in a tailspin, sometimes called a “graveyard spin” that I couldn’t get out of. As I spiraled down, I formed a gang with all the baggage of weapons, drugs, assaults, and stabbings and developed a “street reputation.” My crime showed no favorites, as I even stole my father's vehicles and his boss’s work trucks. Yet neither he nor my mother turned their backs on me.
Most of my early life, beginning at age twelve, I served time in juvenile prisons, except for one six-month release, four months of which were spent on the run, staying in safe houses or anywhere I could with the law on my trail. Then at the age of seventeen, I got into the biggest trouble with the law yet. Following a shoot-out with members of the sheriff's department, I was arrested, and they threw the book at me! It was one I deserved. There were charges ranging from attempted murder, robbery, burglaries, firearms violations, and the list went on. Even though I was still a juvenile, I was looking at 80 years of hard time. After the dust settled, the little boy who nearly died at the hands of his own father at age seven was entering prison to do a 23-year stint.
My Heart of Stone
While that was bad, it really wasn’t as bad as it could have been, and I knew that the time I got was time I deserved. In the back of my heart, though, were the charges that hadn’t been brought against me. I had become as bad or worse than my biological father, and the anger and hatred now had a “controlled environment” in which to develop me into the farthest thing from what my mother wanted her little boy to become. I began serving my time as if I were on the streets—fighting, abusing drugs, and running with a tough crowd. My reputation from the streets followed me to the reception center at the state penitentiary. The horrible crimes of my past bore down on me, and I knew that I was damned and cursed to hell. I was a servant of Satan, as my tattooed devil horns on my head indicated. I felt no hope for myself as the large tattoo on my neck (C U R S E D) spelled to anyone who saw me. The violence inside came easy: race riots, assaults, group demonstrations, weapons infractions, and custodial assaults with an active STG (Security Threat Group) tag became my life.
Twelve and a half years later, I received a booklet from an “old man” who often passed through the dorms handing out religious literature. He gave me a booklet called “Heart of Stone” by Bill Corum. I read this man’s story and learned that he too had gone from bad to worse, had many crimes to his name, and had hurt many people. But there came a change, and he was now living a happy and productive life with his wife on the outside. I wrote to the publisher and told him that I am glad things worked out for Bill Corum, but I would never be able to become a Christian because confessing my sins would surely mean a life term in prison, and I wouldn’t be able to do that. The things that Bill had were peace and hope, and I had neither.
As Far as the East is from the West
The publisher from Missouri wrote back and told me that there was hope for me as well as forgiveness for what I had done. I only needed to confess my sins and accept the penalty Christ had paid for me. He also said something that was hard for me to believe at first, and that was: There is no sin, or sinner, that is beyond God’s ability to forgive, and my “badness” was what was now helping me see my need for God. If I had grown up in a perfect house and needed nothing, I might never have felt a need for God.
Somehow, through these words, I could understand that just maybe God loved me. It was during this time that I got in a fight in the lunch hall and hurt a man badly, and for the first time, I felt bad about it! God was working in me, showing me the error of my path. I was ready for the message in the booklet.
After a few letters and phone visits, I invited the man to come visit me. He was anxious to tell me about the new life in Christ that awaited me. During our visit, he opened up the Word of God for several hours, and hope that I never knew was possible came to me. He told me that if I asked Jesus to forgive me, the Lord Himself would take my confessed sin and cast it from Him to a place that is as far as the East is from the West, to a place called His Sea of Forgetfulness—never to be held against me again. Furthermore, he said that if I asked Jesus to be my Lord, the angels in Heaven would rejoice at my becoming a believer. He also said that at the Lord’s return, I would not only inherit God’s Kingdom but also receive a new incorruptible body—minus the devil horns and “C U R S E D” tattoo!
That all sounded good to me, because I knew I had to have some kind of change in my life or there wouldn’t be any more life for me. He asked me if I was ready to ask the Lord into my heart, reminding me that “Now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). That was November 2, 2012, the day I prayed to the Lord to take me as I was. He did, because I believed He would do so. I immediately felt the pain and weight of a lifetime of sin lift off me. “It works!” I exclaimed. “It really works!” A few months later, this man came back to baptize me in Jesus’ name. Steve, the old man who first gave me the booklet, came to witness my dedication by baptism and to encourage me. I know now that I was cursed by my own accord and actions, and by my own accord I also was saved. I had chosen to believe, but it was Christ who called me to repentance. I am thankful Christ died for me that I might have hope and life more abundantly.
The Miracle that Works
I am still in prison, but I am free—free from the burden of sin. I have life, joy, happiness, and an inner peace that I hadn’t dreamed possible before I met Jesus. But most important is the understanding that Jesus offers everyone a way out. The Bible says that where there is sorrow, He gives the oil of gladness; where there is fear, He gives strength; and where there is suffering, He gives the Morning Star. All my friends and loved ones—the people who knew me before—feel that a miracle has brought these changes to my life. I know that it is the miracle-working power that Jesus has worked through me, and I hope will work through you also. HOPE awaits you! Knock and He will open. Call and He will answer. Repent and He will forgive.