I just finished reading a painful autobiography. It is the story of an African American man who was set up by the police and the police officer who set him up. The title is Convicted: A Crooked Cop, An Innocent Man, and an Unlikely Journey of Forgiveness and Friendship.
Forgiveness is the brave part of this story—as forgiveness is. It takes another level of bravery to forgive.
Each chapter of this book is back-and-forth with the police officer and the African American man. The police officer openly shared how easily it is to fix cases, be over-aggressive, plant evidence, etc–and justify it all when you are a police officer. Everything that #blacklivesmatters has been making public is in this story. All the stuff John and I have known firsthand because of the boys we have raised is in this story. Our justice system is broken, no matter what Facebook meme you read. This is not me not supporting the police officers. I purposely volunteer my time every week with Juvenile Probation so I can get to know the good probation officers and the good police officers so I can know that they exist; so I can pray for them; and so I can talk about them. Their jobs are hard and they are underpaid. But I also know that not all of them are good. I know from our boys who all have been a part of the justice system (two still are) that the system is broken and rarely redeems lives.
This truth should make you uncomfortable. Many of you do get to live your lives safely away from this justice system and do not feel any guilt for that. Rejoice and pray for the rest of us. I also ask you to not numb yourself to this brokenness. We need you to pray for us in that brokenness. Please feel this discomfort on our behalf.
Then there is Jameel’s story in this autobiography. He is from a disadvantaged area but has a good work ethic and made decisions to avoid a life of crime. He chose his work ethic over the easier money. Except–and he was very open about this–he didn’t make the hard decisions to live wiser. It was those good intentions while being on the wrong path. Twice he got into the cars of criminals and that is when he got in trouble with the law and the system didn’t give him a chance. He openly shares that knew he was smarter than that but still got into the cars because as he stated, he was lazy. He also noted the bad decisions he made because he stubbornly wouldn’t surrender every area of his life to God. He didn’t make those hard decisions so the fruit of that lack of hard effort kept holding him back. This breaks my heart too, I’ve lived through those decisions of my sons. The living through is the heartbeat of my Bravester heart.
I want you to read this book.
Jameel shared this about when he first was transferred into the prison system (way different than time in a jail by the way, and I hate that I know that). This is where the title of this blog comes from.
I walked out of my cell and went down to the end of the hallway. The guy came running and took a big swing at me. That’s the only one he got to throw. I threw one punch in self-defense and didn’t stop hitting him until, once again, my friends dragged me off of him. The moment he started pushing me in the television room, he ceased to be another inmate. Andrew Collins had come into the prison and I took him out.
The fight scared me but not because I thought I might get hurt. I didn’t care about that. What scared me was how I didn’t care about anything. The most dangerous people in prison are those who have nothing to lose. They don’t care if they live or die, which means they will probably end up killing someone or getting themselves killed or both. I never, ever thought I could become one of those guys, but slowly I was becoming one.
I had several other fights in between the two I described. Every time I got a little better at taking my guy out, and every time I pushed it closer to the edge. It was only a matter of time before something really bad happened. I had become somebody I never knew; somebody I did not want to be. I knew I needed to change, but I didn’t know how. To change meant letting go of the anger that consumed me, to let go of my chance of getting even with the cop who had destroyed my life.
I didn’t want to do that.
I wanted him to feel the pain I lived with every day. I wanted him to get his, and I wanted to be the guy to give it to him. But if I stayed on the path I was on, I would never get the chance because I’d be dead long before the federal government let me back out on the streets. P. 89
This is where forgiveness was discovered and saved his life. I want you to read this book.
How does an innocent man become the guilty man the system set him up to be?
How does a man become the words that were spoken over him?
By his decision of using his anger to numb his pain.
This was his decision. He chose to hang on to his anger and chose to live with the repercussions of that anger. That anger changed him into the very words he was trying to not become.
You’ve heard “those words” spoken over you? Are you becoming those words because of your anger? I hope this shakes you up a bit. A lot actually.
Shakes you up enough to consider the very thing you said you would never ever ever ever do. To forgive that person who has spoken those painful—and untrue—words of you. Know this, the journey of forgiveness begins in pain and ends in hope. It always ends in hope. Jameel’s story powerfully lives this. I want you to read this book.
Be brave, not angry. Worthiness is your birthright.