When asked what stands out about wearing the badge while living in the light of the empty tomb, what comes to my mind is an event that taught me more about the nature of grace than all the lectures I’ve heard on the subject combined.
It was early in the shift. I can’t remember what season, but I think it might have been summer— either way it was Southern Cal and all the days are beautiful. Two days prior to this, I had received a novel as a gift and discovered it to be one of those that I just could not put down. On the morning in question, I’d brought the book with me to read on my breaks. During the morning count, it fell to me to run the count on the first floor in booking. While making this round, I came across a single male inmate sitting in a cell designated for at least 20 persons.
When I opened the cell to confirm this inmate’s identity, I saw that he was reading a copy of “my” novel. No, not the one I’d written, but the one I was reading at the time. During this early stage in my career, I was still enamored with my shiny new badge and I couldn’t see how anyone of “these people”— these inmates, could have anything in common with me.
I stalked to where the inmate sat reading a tattered copy of “my” novel and snatched it from his hands. Fear washed over the young man’s face as his color drained. He went rigid on the stone bench. “Where did you get this?” I demanded.
The inmate stuttered, “I-I-I found it on the floor. I didn’t mean to do nothing wrong, sir. I’m sorry. You can have it. I don’t want no trouble.” With that, he stretched both palms toward me as if to push me away.
In the breath of that moment, I realize the truth of the statement, “Except for the grace of God, there go I.” I just stood there and looked at the fear on the man’s face, shocked at the anger in my voice.
I stopped. I prayed. I repented. Then I gave the book back and apologized.
I left that cell a humbled man. The point? The only difference between us and “those people” is God….Just saying.