August 26, 2015 by Bruce Glover
In Ecclesiastes chapter 3, The Preacher tells us, “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heavens.” I’ve known this line of Scripture (and the next seven verses) for years as lyrics in the Pete Seeger song “Turn, Turn, Turn.” I was familiar with it long before Jesus got my attention.
I have been in prison for 15 years. The last time I saw my father was the day I was pronounced guilty in trial at court. For a little over seven years, I was in a Florida panhandle prison, too far away by hours for any hope of a visit. I was able to call Dad, but on a limited basis – calls from prison are astonishingly expensive.
Before my arrest, Jesus and His Bible were worthless to me, a fiction I didn’t believe or need (so I thought). That all changed when I found myself sitting in county jail. I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. For all the wrong reasons – all the reasons a lot of people “find Jesus” in jail. But, boy, am I ever glad that God didn’t turn me away because of that. I find great comfort in God’s words about those in Philippi who preached Christ out of contention, not sincerely, and how he rejoiced “notwithstanding.” (Phil. 1:15-18) I know that’s how my Lord answered my skewed acceptance of Him; the right thing for the wrong reason. He still rejoiced.
He’s been a wonderful Friend all these years. He’s been an amazing Teacher. He’s always been beside me when I looked for Him, listening when I needed to talk, and He’s never let me down.
But there was a situation that happened in my walk with Christ that tried my faith and patience.
After seven and a half years or so, I got a transfer closer to home, to the closest prison to my hometown. I was so happy.
I was finally close enough for Dad to visit!
That didn’t happen. In fact, something even worse transpired. A change in the phone service provider for Dad prevented me from calling him without him setting up an account.
I wrote him a letter to explain this. I got no response. I wrote again. And again. He wouldn’t answer. I don’t know why. He was never much of a letter writer, but he would at least write a note. Not anymore.
I took the issue to God in prayer. I found some trusted brothers to pray for the situation. I shared it in our chapel, to any group who would listen.
Then I tried to wait. Patience is not one of my finer qualities.
After awhile with no answer from God, I tried to remedy the situation myself. I attempted to get an “emergency” call from our chaplain. He said it wasn’t an emergency. He spoke rightly. I coaxed a friend’s wife to call my dad. It wasn’t a pleasant call and caused problems between us. The friend was my roommate, and things were uncomfortable for quite some time. I tried to get one of the volunteer ministries to contact Dad. They never could.
I kept writing Dad, but the letters became less frequent and shorter. It’s hard to know what to write when the other party never responds. I always wrote Dad that I loved him; I tried to talk through how horrible things turned out, and I always made sure he knew what God meant to me and how He loved him, too. And I kept up the prayers.
Every once in a while I would try to call, hoping it would go through. I always got the same message: “This party does not have an active account.”
This went on for seven long years. I was soon thinking about my mortality and Dad’s. (In prison, just how cheap and fleeting life is becomes a stark, profound reality rather quickly.) I was afraid Dad would pass away before I got to talk to him again. And there was so much to talk about! I was frustrated with not having contact with someone so important to me.
But God used those years to get me to focus on Him. He sent a number of dear, important brothers and sisters – in prison and beyond these fences – into my life to rally around me and help me grow.
I was still anxious and grieved about being estranged from Dad. I recognized, however grudgingly, that Jesus Christ was with me, and He had a plan. I didn’t like His plan, but He had one.
From time to time, my brothers here would remind me they were still praying for Dad, and the volunteer ministries would ask me for a prayer update.
After seven years, I got a note in the mail from Dad. It was as short as my letters had become, but oh, so much more meaningful.
“I’ve set up an account. Please call me.”
I barely made it back to my cell before I started bawling like a baby. (Bawling isn’t exactly something you want to do in the open in prison!)
It took me a few days to work through my emotions. They ran the gamut. I was so overwhelmed. At first I was so overjoyed, then I started thinking about how long Dad let me “hang in the wind.” I thought about not calling him at all – “that’ll fix him!” I thought about calling him up and giving him both barrels. Stupid stuff, really.
The Spirit kept me from the phone. I prayed for a calm heart and His tongue. I did not want to ruin God’s amazing blessing.
The first call was awkward. And way too short. Yes, I bawled some more.
And I knew just where the thanks belonged. This was answered prayer. Everything I tried failed, but after seven years (and how about that special number! Seven!) Dad allowed me to call him. There were Breakthrough Intercessors praying for this, as well. I thank you all.
We talked once a week after that. After a month or so, he answered one of my calls with something that got me bawling right there at the phones: “When’s visiting hours over there?”
The Sunday he came was so special. After fifteen years I got to hug my dad and spend time with him. For three hours we were dad and son again. It shocked me to see how frail he had become, but I was so thankful for the visit.
Something almost as special as the visit happened the day before. During a service by a new Christian group to our prison, every one of the eight or nine volunteers who came in with them searched me out to pray for a safe and joyous visit. I’ll never forget the sincerity and love in their actions.
The season came, just like The Preacher promised. I’m praying that this season is every bit as long as the one I just went through (or longer, Lord!), because Dad and I have a whole bunch of catching up to do.
More importantly, though, I thank Jesus Christ for giving me the opportunity to make sure Dad and I will have eternity together. His Grace and answered prayer convince me we will.
God is never slow or late in answering prayers. Sometimes we may wonder why He’s taking so long. If my experience is any indication, it’s because He knows just how long it will take to do His will in our lives.
Thank you, Lord Jesus!
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