~The Apostle Paul Accepted His Calling, No Matter What It Entailed~

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Whenever prisons or prisoners are portrayed by the media or the entertainment industry or even just discussed by ordinary people often the expression, “doing hard time” is used. I have served many years in just these type of places – like the ADX in Florence, CO – that are sometimes used as examples of “hard time.” And to be honest, I did not and do not think of those years as “hard time” or the rest of them as “easy time.” It was just “doing time…”

When prisoners say, “doing time,” we mean it literally. How we deal with or mitigate the damage of those units of time we are serving, whether it’s  years, decades, or forever. Some of us also consider self-improvement and attempting to gain our freedom part of doing time. There s an opposite to that, of course. We refer to it as, “time doing you.” That is when you allow your conditions to define you and fall into negative or self-destructive behaviors like drugs, gangs, or unnecessary violence.

“The coldest, most inhumane time I have done were the years that I spent at the ADX, or Administrative Maximum in Florence, Colorado. Among other labels it has been described as, “The Alcatraz of the Rockies,” and the most secure prison in the world.”

I was taken there right after it opened. I was there with Tim McVeigh, the Unabomber, and some of the first World Trade Center bombers, and various gang and mob leaders. I m often asked what it was like being there and it is a hard question. This is because your circumstances change there over the years. Also, there is no common ground to start from, nothing to compare it to. My standard answer is, “Imagine being locked behind two steel doors into a very small bathroom, and three times a day, large, angry men bring food to you. Five times a week, three of those large, angry men chain you up and escort you with sticks to a slightly larger room for an hour of court-mandated recreation. That s an incomplete answer, but it usually ends the conversation, which is the point. For the purposes of this conversation, I will try and be more detailed. One primary aspect I remember is that in the ADX, for the first time in my life, I was truly alone. Of course, it was solitary confinement, but this is the modern version with soundproofing and baffles in the vents, etc. We did have intermittent contact with a few people on the range in rec periods, but that was a few hours a week.

And he took him aside from the multitude (Mark 7:33).

Paul not only stood the tests in Christian activity, but in the solitude of captivity. You may stand the strain of the most intense labor, coupled with severe suffering, and yet break down utterly when laid aside from all religious activities; when forced into close confinement in some prison house.

That noble bird, soaring the highest above the clouds and enduring the longest flights, sinks into despair when in a cage where it is forced to beat its helpless wings against its prison bars. You have seen the great eagle languish in its narrow cell with bowed head and drooping wings. What a picture of the sorrow of inactivity.

Paul in prison. That was another side of life. Do you want to see how he takes it? I see him looking out over the top of his prison wall and over the heads of his enemies. I see him write a document and sign his name–not the prisoner of Festus, nor of Caesar; not the victim of the Sanhedrin; but the–“prisoner of the Lord.” He saw only the hand of God in it all. To him the prison becomes a palace. Its corridors ring with shouts of triumphant praise and joy.

Restrained from the missionary work he loved so well, he now built a new pulpit–a new witness stand–and from that place of bondage come some of the sweetest and most helpful ministries of Christian liberty. What precious messages of light come from those dark shadows of captivity.

Think of the long train of imprisoned saints who have followed in Paul’s wake. For twelve long years Bunyan’s lips were silenced in Bedford jail. It was there that he did the greatest and best work of his life. There he wrote the book that has been read next to the Bible. He says, “I was at home in prison and I sat me down and wrote, and wrote, for joy did make me write.” The wonderful dream of that long night has lighted the pathway of millions of weary pilgrims.

That sweet-spirited French lady, Madam Guyon, lay long between prison walls. Like some caged birds that sing the sweeter for their confinement, the music of her soul has gone out far beyond the dungeon walls and scattered the desolation of many drooping hearts.

Oh, the heavenly consolation that has poured forth from places of solitude!

Taken aside by Jesus,
To feel the touch of His hand;
To rest for a while in the shadow
Of the Rock in a weary land.
Taken aside by Jesus,
In the loneliness dark and drear,
Where no other comfort may reach me,
Than His voice to my heart so dear.
Taken aside by Jesus,
To be quite alone with Him,
To hear His wonderful tones of love
‘Mid the silence and shadows dim.
Taken aside by Jesus,
Shall I shrink from the desert place;
When I hear as I never heard before,
And see Him ‘face to face’?

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