I have faced no greater agony in my life than waking up in jail from a drug-induced blackout to find I was facing my “third strike”: life in prison.
I had been on the streets for 18 months after serving a 10-year prison sentence. The outside world had changed in the 10 years I had been locked up, and I found nowhere to belong. I gave up and got strung out on speed. Within two short weeks I lost everything. I had had a good job, a car and a driver’s license, and a long period of being clean and sober. But I was empty inside and turned to crime, ending up back in prison.
I actually had to push the button on the intercom to ask the guard what I was in jail for. “Burglary, two counts of robbery, auto theft,” he said. It was like a hammer hitting me in the chest. I wanted to die and became suicidal. I was going to hang myself; the pain was just too much. I had failed yet again–my family, my boss, myself. No way was I going to die of old age in prison.
I had accepted Christ into my life back in 1985, but I lost my way. Now, full of pain and sorrow, I fell to my knees and cried out to God, “Give me one single reason why I should stick around!” I even gave Him a deadline: “You’ve got three days.”
The next day I received a Christian card from my Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor. “Saw you on the news. It takes what it takes. Hang in there.”
I said to God, “No. It’s going to take more than that.”
The next day a friend I had not seen in 24 years visited me. “I saw you on the news,” he said. “I’m glad that you’re alive.” Then he looked into my eyes and said, “Doug, as an ex-cop, I thought to myself at first, ‘Good–he’s off the streets. Lock him up for life.’ Then God put it in my heart to come see you. God loves you and I love you. Please don’t kill yourself. No matter how bad it may seem, He has a plan for you.”
All I could do was cry. Here was the sign I was looking for!
The next day, a Decision magazine was slid under my cell door. The first thing I read was Billy Graham’s message about the storms in life. By the time I got to the end of it, tears came. Then I saw the box at the end: “Are there storms in your life? Put your trust in Jesus.” In the box it explained how to receive Christ.
The emptiness in my life flooded over me. I fell to my knees and rededicated my life to Jesus while reading the prayer. I wrote to BGEA’s Christian Guidance department right away.
The chaplain here in the jail gave me a study Bible and the first Scripture I read was Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (NIV). A few weeks later I received a copy of “Day by Day With Billy Graham” and information from BGEA. Now, more than two years since that day, I am a new man. I read the Word of God daily, pray and experience Christian fellowship with my chaplain, when before I trusted no man. I have been able to share my testimony with several other lost souls, including a prisoner in isolation, with whom I shared through a crack in the wall. They, too, found their way to the cross! Not through me but through the Holy Spirit within me.
I may spend the rest of my life in a man-made prison, but for the first time in my life I am truly free and know that God has a plan for me, even in prison. I’m here as a new man now and will help as many people as I can.