So this morning's reading in Psalms brought Mr. Shenor's journey to mind. "Anyone can come to you, [God], and you will hear their prayers. When our sins become too heavy for us, you wipe them away. Oh, how wonderful it is to be the people you chose to come and stay in your Temple." (PS 65:2-4 ERV). I think the phrase "you chose to come" might be better understood if we include a sense of beckoning, for God does not casually choose us as we choose a pair of shoes or choose an educational path or even as we often choose God, with limited initial understanding or long-term commitment. For God continues to beckon us, actively keeps God's promises and covenants, loves us (an active verb, not merely a state of being), guides us, teaches us.
God keeps the door open, even as we become more certain that we have gone too far wrong to ever be "OK" again. God sees our future, one of hope and purpose and rehabilitation, all possible even from the quicksand filled swamp we too often make of our own lives. Then when our longing for the "something better" that is our inheritance, our permanent right because Jesus has made it so, begins to tug at us, our broken hearts tell us the biggest lie of all...that we need to do better, be better before God will even listen to us!
But the truth is this: God's grace is available ALL THE TIME, even when we are running amok, self-will run riot, harming all who love us, and our selves most of all. When we are sufficiently weary, exhausted, utterly done with doing it our own way, we give way to God's way of doing things and God begins the healing in that moment.
Mr. Shenor's journey reflects this experience and I am very grateful that he has so generously shared his experience with a wider audience. And I praise the God who remade him into a force for good in his community. May this story be replicated in the lives of prisoners everywhere.