There is a non-fiction series that I have been watching off and on about a man who is awaiting his date of execution. It tells the story of his life as he was growing up, and it explains the progressive life of crime that led him to his current location on death row. It explains the situations that led him to make the poor decisions that have paved the way to a life behind bars. It tells the story of a very damaged individual who gave up hope within himself, and society. It also shows, in many subtle ways, how the man has become a victim of his own demise; unknowingly orchestrating his own death through the many poor choices he has made. The choice he had made to kill another inmate to land him on death row was a chilling thing to watch him explain. He had no remorse. He explained that he had made a choice to kill because he was tired of being sent to solitary confinement. He had failed to see why he was always sent to this place of isolation. He also did not see that the results of his own actions were the very things that had put him there. Seeking a way out of the place that was driving him even more insane, he killed a man. It was his ticket out of the psychological torture of being caged within an inescapable space, with nothing but his own troubled mind.
It is definitely not fair to this man to have to be a victim. You may not agree, and I am in no way excusing any of his desecrating actions, but it is not fair to experience a life where love was limited, or missing. There are many ways to define ‘love,’ but I believe it is easily understood within our own experiences. We have the love that we experience through family, or with our closest people. We show each other kindness, gentleness and joy. We give from our heart, and share laughter. We all have a way of giving and receiving a love that has taken us into a place of comfort. A place unlike the prison of mind, stone and bars that this man is currently living within.
I am not that far into the series, and I cannot recall all of the details of the last episode, but there is a man from the outside; a kind-hearted Christ follower who became friends with the inmate. He would write letters to the inmate, and simply show him compassion. Empathy. He would simply show the man a little bit of kindness, a little at a time. I remember the man explaining how the inmate would gradually change his responses and content as their exchanging of letters progressed. Early on, his responses were hardened. Eventually, they became softer. The inmate would end his letters with salutations, something along the lines of, “Take care.” As time passed, it changed to, “Take care buddy.” Eventually, the man had said that he was starting to end his letters with, “Love you buddy.”
In a way, I can relate to this small change within the inmate. He actually has an influential person who is playing a role in the slow change of his hardened heart. Through the outsider’s meekness and empathy, the inmate’s heart is becoming softer, and pliable. He is experiencing the things that are plowing up new emotions, leading him to a more positive view. A view outside of his imprisonment. A love emotion. Conjuring up a great interest in the kindness that the man has shown him. A new experience, bringing a smile to the face of a flawed individual.
We may not have had a life of constant crime, or a number of knocks that have hardened the heart to the point of killing, but we have all died within our devastating experiences in some way. I don’t know enough about the man from the outside that is willingly showing forms of love to this man of habitual crime and mental anguish, but I do know that the love of God resides in him. It has shown through the few clips I have watched within the series. He is a witness, through the actions and dialogue. I know that some who see the same characteristics of this man, in others, may say that it does not take the Lord to be kind, or empathetic, or simply a buddy to a hardened man. But through the power of Jesus, and His message of love, two men are now a bit closer to being positive segments within His great and divine plan. That is my belief. When we are imprisoned by our own tribulation, and see no way to break out of it’s confinement, we should focus on love. Its many forms can break through the strongest bars, the thickest walls and the hardest hearts.
1 John 4:7-11 (NKJV)
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.