I wrote and posted this blog entry back on November 17, 2008. Recently I've watched another "friend" spiral out of control and revert to his old self and it got me thinking about "Nod" so I looked him up on the DOC website and I see that all these years later, Don is back in prison. It is so sad to me to see people who absolutely know better and have friends and family to support them, but they willingly choose to follow the same old path. I've updated the 2008 blog entry with current information in red so that the reader can see the slippery slope men like "Nod" have taken. The other guy I mentioned has not yet ended up in prison, but I have to wonder just how long it will be with the life he is living.
Nod was a rather strange fellow, in that he had been incarcerated almost continually ever since he was about 13 years old. When I met him he was 29 years old and he had already spent more than half of his life behind bars. Every time he would get released, within a few days to weeks he would go pull another crime and go back to jail. He admitted to me that he did this intentionally because he had become "comfortable" with life in prison. That was his exact word, "comfortable." He said that in prison he always had a roof over his head, three meals a day, free medical care, no need to worry about retirement, and he never had to work more than a couple of hours a day. I led him to Christ and for a time he seemed like he was going to turn things around. I convinced him to earn his GED, and I spoke to him nearly every day that there really was a better life out there waiting for him. Unfortunately, after I left prison in 1984, Don reverted to his lifestyle which earned him the name Nod. I've thought about Don many times over the years, and ever since the Internet has made it possible, I've kept tabs on him, and Don still continues down the same path. I have looked him up on the DOC page from time to time, and he has been in prison all but a few months of the past 24 and a half years that it has been since I last saw him on the day I was released from prison. He is 55 years old now and has spent almost 38 years in prison. (Nod is now 62 years old and is once again in prison. I calculated his time from his DOC page and he has spent 46 years of his life in prison.) You and I can shake our heads and think about how sad this is, but I share this story about Nod to illustrate something about many of those we live among.
It never ceases to amaze me how that people want to keep going back to things, people, places that once held them in bondage. You see it all the time. People break free from addictions, only to return of their own volition. Wives who have been in terribly abusive marriages who keep returning to their husbands because of a promise that they have changed, even though that promise has been made and broken over and over again and again. People who have had their lives ravaged by sin who find Jesus Christ and the healing and peace that he brings, but they turn their back on the one who first loved them, and return to a life filled with brokenness and heartache, thinking that they can manage it this time. The problem, as I see it, is that even in the midst of bondage, people often find a sense of comfort in that place. Often, when people find healing in Christ, they begin to look back and they miss certain aspects of that old life, and they think within themselves that they can go back and try again, as if this time the outcome was going to be different. The thing that they are not recognizing, it is what "self" wants or desires, and in order to get back to that place, it necessarily means that self will over rides God's will. Self will is strong, and we have a hard time submitting our will, our desires, our plans, over to God on a permanent basis. We hold on to a piece of that old place, person or thing, and we glamorize "what could be" and we think we can go back and "redo" things and make it work right this time. Usually, we can't.
Often times, our desire to go back stems from the fact that we are in the midst of one of those difficult times of our life (see my last blog entry as a point of reference) and not understanding where we are and what God is doing in our life, we want to go back to a previous place where we found some comfort.
OK, that sounds strange... but we see it in the Bible with the children of Israel time and time again. Remember after they had been in bondage in Egypt for 430 years (Exodus 12:40) and God delivers them through Moses, and then as they began to face hardship and difficulties, they grumbled that they had it better off in Egypt? Over and over we read where the children of Israel were delivered, God prospered them, and yet, they chose to return to their former ways. Why? Because we always tend to remember "the good old days" better than they actually were, and we forget all the pain and frustration we went through. I remember times that Nod and I sat and talked late at night and he talked about the pain of not having anyone to love him, the pain of never having anything in his life other than what the State of Illinois gave him, not even owning his own clothes, except for a few things that I and others had given him. But every time he got released from prison and he was faced with the pressures of life, he always forgot the pain and went back to what he knew, what was comfortable, even if that was in prison. Many folks in life are in prisons of their own making, because they'd rather go back to "what they know" than face the uncertainty of tomorrow and the struggle that it brings. We will never totally break free from those chains that have bound us until we choose God's way over our way, and that means we walk by faith into the unknown. The secret is knowing that it is not unknown to God.