Clink-clink was the sound of the handcuffs as I felt the metal brush against my skin. I bowed my head in shame, praying that no one I knew would see me. My shame was so great that I took my micro braided hair loose, hoping to hide my face. Usually, I can talk my way out of anything but as I was put in the back of the police car, I realized that neither my fast-moving lips nor my very real tears would save me from my fate. I felt angry, ashamed, humiliated, broken, remorseful, pity and empty all at once. The ride in the police car, mug shots, fingerprinting and holding cell were extremely demoralizing. I loathed every minute of it and secretly wished that I would just drop dead to have it all over with.
My wrong was two-fold. Not only was I caught stealing but I was also guilty of being greedy. We didn’t go shopping that day with the intention of stealing, but my friends and I decided somewhere in the midst it was an easy thing to do. First we took one or two items from one store; however, that was not enough. Instead of being satisfied with not being caught the first time, we entered another department store where we loaded up. It was Christmas time and in my mind, I wanted my family to have a good Christmas. I loaded up on goodies for my family as I thought about the smiles on their faces. In my head, I justified my wrong doing. Little did I know, I was being watched the entire time. When I crossed the threshold of the store, I soon found out the magnitude of my trouble. Many things were happening at once and I remembered the plain clothes officer explaining that we were being charged with felonies.
The shame I felt turned to agony and disappointment when I thought about facing my grandmother. Of the entire experience, seeing the look of disappointment on her face was my worst nightmare. I kept recalling one of her favorite sayings, “What’s done in the dark will come to the light.” Biblically, the scripture reveals, “For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither anything hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.” (Luke 8:17 KJV) See, this wasn’t my first time shoplifting. As little kids, my friends and I would take small juices and drink them in the store after school. I’d swap tags on clothes to get a cheaper price and if a cashier made a mistake at the register and gave me too much money I kept it to myself. All of these little things were apart of my shoplifting in darkness, but this incident brought my stealing into the light. It exposed my true character.
I was a model student, headed to Africa for the first time in a few weeks and had my whole world turned upside down because I decided to break one of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt not steal.” (Exodus 20:15 KJV) Not only was I stealing, but I was coveting what other’s had and lamenting about what my family lacked. Soon I found out that not only was my previously clean record about to be tarnished as I faced the severity of a felony, but I could no longer leave the country. Why was I being treated like a criminal? I just made a mistake. Surely, this one incident wouldn’t change my life.
I recall standing before the judge as he read the charges and I’ll never forget his short and simple admonishment in the sentencing. He told my friend and me that he too was disappointed in our actions. We had no prior records and a bright future ahead. In fact, he was willing to give us a second chance. He granted us youthful offender status and reduced the felony to a misdemeanor. Our records would forever be sealed. Because of the mercy the judge showed in the courtroom that day, I was able to go on and live a very productive life. Every time I fill out an application, I am thankful because I don’t have to “check the box.” I am reminded of God’s mercy shown through the judge on that day.
Rarely do I share this story because I realize the stigma associated with my crime. However, as I wrote a letter of support for a young man this week, I remembered that there is power in a second chance. He, like me, was a teenager who committed a crime less egregious than mine but the judge in his case showed no mercy. He faces two years of prison and eight years of probation. I wrote the letter asking the judge to reconsider the sentence sharing my personal testimony of redemption and the successes I have enjoyed because of that second chance. Show Your Scar! was such a timely message last week because this crime is one of my many scars, and that EmpowerMoment and the letter I wrote on behalf of the young man lead me to share this with you.
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (I Peter 1:18-19 KJV)
Hopefully, you too will understand that there is power in redemption. God gives us second chances. Truthfully, some of us may even be on our fifth chance but we can make it right with God. He is a just God, but He is also merciful. Do you need redemption from something that has you bound? It may not be a physical jail cell, but maybe there is something that threatens to alter the course of your life if you don’t let it go. Your past “crimes” and current misgivings don’t have to have the final say over your life. Jesus already paid the ultimate price for your sins and now you just need to turn it over to Him so that you can walk free from your jail cell.
Thank You for my freedom. Thank You for the lessons I learned in the jail cell. It is because of the mercy that You have shown me throughout the years that I am able to walk freely today. Forgive me for not using my testimony to bless others as often as I should. Lord I ask that You intercede on the behalf of many young men and women who stand before judges each and every day that lack compassion. God I ask that you give them compassion, sound wisdom and discernment as they make their decisions. Let them not lead with preconceived biases. Heavenly Father, continue to free me from those things which have me bound. Let me not be arrested by my past or present sins; however, let me turn my misgivings to you realizing that whom the Son sets free, is free indeed. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!
Ladies, today I EMPOWER you to free yourselves. Don’t let your past be a stumbling block to your future. Share your testimony with others so that people will realize that who you are today is by God’s grace. Acknowledge that it is by His might and not your own that you are standing today. Help others understand that the lessons you learned in the “jail cell” have molded you into the person that you have become.
Did God redeem you from a “jail cell?” Share your story with us in the comments.
Read a related EmpowerMoment: Blessings Out of Unusual Circumstances
Ms. Chancee` Lundy lives in Washington, DC and is an entrepreneur as she is the co-owner of Nspiregreen, LLC, an environmental consulting firm. She is also a dedicated daughter, sister, friend and community servant. She has used her gift of public speaking to lead workshops across the globe speaking to crowds as large as 10,000 people. Her guiding scriptures this week are Philippians 4:11-13 “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me.”