NOTE: I felt a great tug to re-post this blog I wrote about my criminal past because as I have been writing about God’s unconditional Love and Presence, I felt the need to be clear in that I truly do truly believe God’s love and grace are unconditional – in that no human being or institution can set the standard or condition that metes out God’s grace, only God can.
So with that I state in Truth and deep humility that I am forgiven. I am blessed. I am restored and renewed. I am clean and sober. I am a child of God…just like St. Dismas the Good Thief!
This was originally written and posted on January 16, 2013.
All that is known of Dismas is that he is the Good Thief crucified with Christ on Calvary. The other thief is known as Gestas. A completely unsubstantiated myth from the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy that enjoyed great popularity in the West during the Middle Ages had two thieves who held up the Holy Family on the way to Egypt. Dismas bought off Gestas with forty drachmas to leave them unmolested, whereupon the [Infant Jesus] predicted that they would be crucified with Him in Jerusalem, and that Dismas would accompany Him to Paradise. His feast day is March 25th. (On St. Dismas the Good Thief).
I have been debating about whether or not to write about what this blog post is. Fear and judgment, among other things, stand in the background telling me that the truth in this instance will not set me free but leave me in worse shape, shamed and discredited. But as I stated in the ”About the BLOG” section that I would write about things [I] sometimes prefer not to talk about.” So, this blog is a leap of faith into the hands of Divine Love, a stepping off the cliff of self-preservation and looking ‘perfect and pious’ in order to soar into the truth. For the Truth will indeed set us free.
I need to trust that One who has been faithful and write a little story that is my current story. To the point: as of January 11, 2013, early in the afternoon my life changed in a way that is still unforeseen but dramatic. I was convicted of a felony for commiting a financial crime that I did indeed commit. There I said it: I am a convicted criminal. I was given a 4 year suspended sentence which means no time in prison as long as I don’t violate parole, miss a repayment or violate any criminal law for at least 2 years). I was also given 2 years supervised probation and financial restitution set at about $6,400 to be repaid by the time my probation period is done.
What can I say; I am not proud of it but I did it and I have learned in the last 12 months of dealing with it a great deal about forgiveness, mercy, restorative justice versus punitive justice, the ‘justice system’ and the corporate-like elements to the behind the scenes deals between lawyers and just how much power a judge can have on a person’s life, and biasedly so. Let me say this: justice is not blind, far from it.
I am not angry nor entitled. No, far from it. I am humbled because I could have been sentenced up to 20 years in prison. As it is my life will never be the same in this body, as I will live with the social stigma of being a convicted felon, losing certain rights permanently and others temporarily.
So, now a new journey begins again. A new life must be fashioned and I am not the one who will fashion it. But the One who will fashion it has said that I am forgiven and I am loved. I am reminded daily that with God all things are possible.
In some ways, this has strengthened my hunger for God, increased my desire for Rez Farm to become reality, and to pursue chaplaincy training and graduate work in pastoral care. But today as I write this, I do so fending off panic, desperately looking for more permanent housing, seeking any type of paid employment (The Earthy Monk is my God work, albeit unpaid), and dealing with the shell-shock that 25 years of work, both mission, ministry, and nonprofit work all but vanished like a wisp of smoke because of some very piss poor choices on my part.
Who will ever trust a ‘thief’ to run anything? Who will trust a person in recovery who also is a convicted criminal again? Heck, I have been turned down for work as a dog washer at PetCo and a dishwasher at IHOP (so much for 5 years of college education when in one fell swoop, I destroyed it all with a relapse-based drunken stupor while in the throes of a deep depression – no excuses here, just the facts).
But certain Scriptures just keep echoing in my head and heart, whispers from a God who is all about starting over, second chances (and third and fourth as well):
“…there is no condemnation for those in…Jesus.
Let the one without sin cast the first stone.
Judge not, lest you be judged.”