Jailhouse Conversion – by Karyn Alexander

From Disco Dude to a Divine Destiny

It started like any normal weekend night for Mike. The year was 1980.

A freshman in college, Mike donned his best disco outfit to prepare for an evening with his drinking buddies. The event of the evening was a date with “drink and drown” at the dance club.

Sporting his best white silk pants, black silk shirt, and large gold chain, Mike looked like a good facsimile of John Travolta’s character in Saturday Night Fever.

Mike’s stature at 6’2” tall, with slim and dark hair, revealed a man of the town. Swaggering from his bright orange Pinto, Mike entered the bar with great enthusiasm for a big night of drunkenness.

A good Catholic boy, Mike was raised in the church. He was an altar boy, knew the Ten Commandments, and was water baptized as a baby. In the “God Club,” so he thought, he led a life of duplicity.

Drinking with the priest on weekends, his religion was nothing but a social obligation.

During his high school days, he had begun a life of stealing and lying. Stealing was a hobby he knew was wrong, yet the convictions he lacked could not reprimand or restrain his behavior. Having a moral compass of sorts, he saw the error of his way, but witnessed in his elders a contradiction of values.

Mike’s home life was one of ridicule and verbal abuse. Mike’s father drank heavily; he was abusive and toxic to all of the family members. He was cruel when addressing the kids, Mike being one of four children. His father’s mean spirit and dissatisfaction with his own life spilled to his frightened wife, and even played out in sadistic suggestions to Mike.

On one occasion, Mike’s father asked him to strike a match and hold it to his father’s arm, burning him on purpose. He was only a child and knew he should obey, but his father’s request bread a chronic pattern of people-pleasing out of fear of being rejected and severely scolded. Mike’s makeup was one of chaos from the confusion of his father’s drunken and unloving encounters. The love that should have been a father’s was absent and replaced with unpredictable angry outbursts, and with wild hateful comments that ruled Mike’s mind and life.

During an escapade at the local Sears store, Mike was caught shoplifting. This was his second offense. He had lied about the first, calling his neighbor to bail him out. She had pretended to be his mother.

This time, however, security called directly to his home and contacted his father. The response was devastating as his father said, “I love you conditionally,” meaning, I no longer love you because you are a thief. At that juncture, Mike was thrown out of the house. Still a minor, he was sleeping in his car until he was able to move in with his older sister. Love had been cruel, and his worst nightmare had come true. “I am rejected because I am not worthy to be in my father’s life. He will only love me when I meet his expectations; that is, when I am good.”

Mike’s insecurities intensified at this time. He went so far as to fake a burglary at his apartment to show he was unsafe, and, therefore, able to regain access to his home and father. One would ask, why would anyone want to go back to an abusive person? We all know how much a parent’s love means to us, so any of us might have responded similarly.

Mike was allowed home again, which answered our question as to “why?” “I guess I missed the abuse,” he said.

Mike was looking for the love and acceptance that he thought needed to come from Dear ol’Dad; bad attention was better than no attention.

During Mike’s tumultuous years, his two brothers began attending a non-denominational church. They asked if he would attend. He thought it sounded boring. They were talking about something called “being saved.”

Mike felt something was missing in his heart, but didn’t feel the church was his “thing.”
Ironically, though, out of the blue one day, a thought came into mike’s head: “Oh, My God, I need to go to confession.” Strangely enough, he did. Nothing seemed to happen, except that he had obeyed his conscience.

Back to our eventful disco night. Mike was a suave guy. He was big, bad, and beautiful. He danced the night away, drinking wildly. He said he danced with everyone in the place. His stylish ensemble, along with his personality, was the hit of the show. “Give me the hose” – a call for more alcohol – left our disco dancer more than full of fun.

As the night wound down, Mike left the bar alone, got into his car and promptly ran a red light. Not a second after his infraction, he was pulled over and arrested. He had 12 previous points on his record, so he was arrested for driving on a suspended license. He was placed in the front seat of the cruiser, and told, “You are going to jail.”

Thoughts of self-admonishment ran through Mike’s mind. “I’m a criminal, I suck, I’m obviously not doing things right.”

Mike was handcuffed and taken to jail. All he could think was how surreal it all felt. “Where are my friends now?” he thought.

“You have one phone call,” explained the sheriff. Mike thought it was all so surreal~ perhaps he was on a TV show. Not so. He was booked, photographed, and walked to a cell.

Placed in a cement cell with an L shaped concrete bench, Mike entered the already occupied holding tank. Two men were lying on the benches. Mike decided to sit on the floor. His first thought was, “My white silk pants are going to be filthy!” He sat down anyway. His attitude had been one of apathy, and even flippant until the door of the cell closed. Mike decided to take the only spot left in the tank, and he sat next to the toilet and dozed off.

What awoke Mike was a loud clanking noise. A metal pole was being raked across the cell bars by the uniformed guard. Mike woke, startled, seeing a much different landscape than his original entrance to the cell.

Sitting on the toilet next to his head, “taking a crap,” was a new resident of the cell.

Mike looked around and thought to himself, “Lucky me, I am the only white guy in here.”

Surrounding Mike were men bragging about their offenses. They called out things like, grand theft, robbing a bank, beating up mom. Far from his mind was the filth on his silk trousers; more so, it was the reality that he was not safe. Being surrounded by 13 men who gave off the “I’m not moving for whitie” vibe made for a very uncomfortable evening. All Mike could think was, “They are criminals with guns who could give a shit about me or anyone. I was freaked,” he said.

At that very moment, the light went on. “What have I done that has brought me to this place?” He felt he had no other choice but to say, “All right, God, I give this all to you. I am sorry for my sins. Whatever my brothers have, I want it too [salvation]. I am asking you to come into my life.”

A calm feeling came over Mike, as he slipped off to sleep again.

The sound of metal hitting the cell bars awoke him for a second time. Sugar donuts were being passed around; his name was called, and he was taken off to a court room.

Mike was released that morning. He hitchhiked home in his soiled evening Disco-wear, and found himself wondering where his life would go from here. He attended church that week with his brothers and went to the altar for prayer. Mike expressed his gratefulness to God, and wept as he felt the Holy Spirit come into his life. He asked Jesus to be the Lord over everything in his life. He finally felt the love of God. He knew God would be the father he needed, filling the void his own father had left years before.

Over the next few months, Mike knew there was more to life than what he had been doing before his arrest. He had been working, drinking; going no-where.

 As he was re-baptized, he asked the Lord, “What do you want me to do?”

Strangely enough, a sign came. Sitting on his desk the very next day was a sticky note that said, “Go into all the Earth and preach the good news.” Matthew 28
Mike knew he was being called to spread the Gospel- The love of God.

Fast forward–Thirty years later: I asked Mike how the scripture and calling had impacted his life. Where was he now? How had the jailhouse conversion and subsequent call been fulfilled?

Mike had gone into ministry training, but had not completed it. He still struggled with the old inferiority feelings and unworthiness from his father’s abuse. He married and had three, grown Christian children. He felt his role as a father was fulfilled in raising Christian children and breaking an ungodly curse of abuse.

His commitment is now renewed to serve, as his station in life has changed. He is now able to give himself to others, as his “nest” is empty. I asked Mike if he could share any wisdom about his experience. He responded with the thought that many. like himself, might view their heavenly father with the same eyes they view their earthly father. It is easy to confuse our emotions when we have suffered rejection and pain. We may imprint our natural father’s behavior onto our relationship to God, which causes us to see Him wrongly.

Mike expressed that there is hope for us because God came to him at his worst hour. He was not abandoned or set aside, rejected or unworthy. It was the hour when a human had failed; his own father had abandoned him. In the same hour, his true and loving heavenly father stepped in to save and love him in a more profound and eternal way.

I asked if he was in ministry now, and he said, “I don’t have that story to tell yet. I am still working out what that really means.”

So, for this Disco dancer, a date with Destiny was waiting in a jail cell so many years ago; not in a Church, but patiently waiting upon Mike for a place to open in his heart.

God bless,

 

Karyn Alexander

Executive Director, Winfield House

Winfieldhouse.org

Karynbalexander@aol.com

 

Winfield House brings the good news of Jesus in a practical way, giving hope to God’s people.

Voice of the Nations: Rev. 5:9 “With your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe, people, language, and nation.”

 

READ MORE OF KARYN ALEXANDER’S COLUMNS HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: