Hiding Behind a Mask
By J. H. from a California State Prison
The article “Hiding Behind a Mask” is reprinted from Prisoners for Christ Outreach Ministry national publication to inmates, Yard Out. If you are interested in receiving the entire Publication of this Yard Out free, please email email@example.com with your mailing address.
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My mind became a vast decaying empire of misery and sorrow. I’d lost everything I owned. I’d failed every one who ever cared for me. I was 22 years old and facing the death penalty. I had no spiritual upbringing and had been addicted to drugs since grade school. My mind and heart had grown numb. I did care, but not for myself.
I cared about those who loved me, how my actions had hurt them. I cared about all the pain and misery I’d caused. It ate at me like a billion little pin pricks ripping away the veil of falsehood that I gathered around me like a mask to hide myself from others.
Years passed and my destructive behavior continued. Eventually, I ended up completely segregated from others. The anger and hatred I had for myself began to fade as I started reading God’s words again.
I’d turned to many religions over the years, even accepted and rejected Christ. Even though I became lost, our heavenly Father did not give up.
I didn’t come to God seeking forgiveness, asking for eternal life or knocking on church doors trying to find the “right” doctrine. I came to God seeking peace and it was given.
When I was 30 years old, still a sinner, after almost nine years waiting in jail, my trial finally began. The process took nearly six months. I was chained; wrists and ankles daily for hours on end.
With little food or rest, I sat listening to the pains and sorrows I’d caused. Some days I read God’s words in court. One day I read “… He that judges me is the Lord,” 1 Corinthians 4:4; and I laid it all in God’s hands.
I was convicted in the guilt phase. A death penalty trial has two phases. First a jury decides your guilt, and second, the same jury decides whether to give you life without parole or the death penalty.
I took the stand in my penalty phase, admitted my involvement and told the jury of all my violated rights (and) that I’d tried to plead guilty and ask for a speedy trial. (I told them) that my own lawyers lied, even though I asked them not to, and tax payers’ dollars were wasted.
Then they were shown some of my art and published poetry. They were told of those who loved me. It was all in God’s hands and I was not nervous or stressed. Either outcome was only man’s judgment.
God was my Judge and He had already judged everyone in the past. He judged us all with love.
One of the reasons my jury decided not to give me the death penalty was due to my art and poetry. Art and writing are ways we create and express beauty and emotion, and make the world a little better (place).
I live in a box surrounded by cold, man-made stones. I’ll be locked in for 24 hours a day. I was a terrible person; convicted of robberies, burglary, auto theft, weapons and drug charges–even murder, and attempted murders, both inside and outside the system.
I was one of the most undeserving of men. Yet, even in a situation like mine, there can be freedom (of the) heart and mind. That freedom is the freedom of choice.
There can be a light to erase the black and shadowed places in your heart, a release from the prison of dark trees, of memories with roots of never forgotten sorrows.
Life or death is a choice we all have. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23