There was a song I heard in my childhood years that had a verse that said, “If it had not been for the Lord who was on my side, where would I be?” This verse expresses the theme of my heart when I think of the goodness of God and all He has done for me. If it had not been for a God who loves His enemies, where would I be? And if it had not been for a God who looked upon me with pity and acted upon me with grace, then where would I be? Only God truly knows where I would be, but because I know where I was, I magnify Jehovah for where I am today. I stand and testify of a heart-changing God who has delivered my soul from the chains of darkness and joined it to the Son of light. The Almighty Father has proved His love to me in ways that have left me so convinced that there is no greater love. And as I reflect upon the saving grace that has produced my conversion, my heart is overwhelmed with a great debt that is due to His name. At a time when I thought that all hope was lost, the hands of God were directing the events of my life in order for His power to be seen.
The incidents that brought about my conversion are living monuments that bear witness to the patience, mercy, and forgiveness of the God who is as powerful today as He was in the days of Moses. On the ninth of June, 2000, a day that is far from being forgotten, an event occurred that would eventually change my life forever. On this day I decided to engage in a criminal act which I had never done before. I was barely eighteen years old, and a high school graduate for only nine days. Young and full of worldly aspirations, my reasons for participating in this crime were a combination of greed, pride, and the fear of rejection. I had little concern about the consequences of my actions, but not enough to restrain my ambitions. So there I was, even in the brightness of the morning, endeavoring to experience a new dimension of the criminal life in an attempt to gain not only wealth, but also a higher degree of honor within my social group.
As I proceeded to engage in this crime, something suddenly occurred that was not part of the plan. It just so happened that while I was leaving the scene, an officer was driving down the same street, headed directly toward the scene. By the time I noticed him, it was too late to get into my vehicle. Therefore, I walked along the city street, hoping that he would just drive by, but he did not. To my surprise and dismay, he stopped right beside me and stepped out of his car. After a short investigation, a foot pursuit transpired, after which I was arrested. So there I was, detained in the county jail. This was my first time incarcerated as an adult. The only other time I spent incarcerated was when I was sixteen years old. And even that was not a true incarceration because it lasted for only a few hours until my father arrived to get me. However, this time was different; hours turned into days, days into weeks, and weeks into months. But little did I know that the hands of God were directing the events in order for His power to be seen.
Prior to my trial, the District Attorney offered me a plea bargain that I did not accept because prison was included. At eighteen years old and weighting a mere 120 pounds, prison was the last place I wanted to be. I thought that if I were sent to prison, I would definitely come face to face with death. Not only did my body size influence my reasoning, but the fact that I had made many enemies throughout this entire process also strengthened my fears. Therefore, I decided to disregard the plea and place my life instead into the hands of the jury. Now this was undoubtedly an unwise decision. The amount of time offered in the plea bargain was no match to the amount of time I could have received if found guilty of all eleven charges. But the hands of God were directing the events in order for His power to be seen.
After the selection of the jury, the trial was in full session. Evidence was brought forward, witnesses bore their testimonies, and arguments were exchanged between the District Attorney and my lawyer. After a two-day trial, the process of deliberation finally began. Before the jury began to deliberate, there was no doubt that I was guilty of all charges. Not only did the evidence prove my guilt, but the fact that I refused to testify on my own behalf also provided solid evidence of my guilt. So there I was, awaiting my fate. Now, if I had been convicted of all eleven charges, I would have been incarcerated for the rest of my life. But the hands of God were directing the events in order for His power to be seen. And it just so happened on the day before the deliberation that the uncle of one of the jurors died. As a result of this, the juror was overwhelmed with grief that would not allow her to continue in the deliberation process. Therefore, she asked to be excused from the process and dismissed from her jury duties. After investigating the validity of the claim of her uncle’s death, it was determined that his death had indeed occurred. So, according to certain regulations, she was granted her request.
Now that this juror was dismissed, there were only eleven jurors remaining to decide my case. By law, at least twelve jurors must be present to deliberate and decide a verdict. Now that there were only eleven, I was given an option to either allow them to render a verdict or declare a mistrial. Well, considering the fact that all evidence was against me, and my guilt was apparent, I immediately declared a mistrial. As a result of this declaration, the District Attorney had several options to choose from; he could have dismissed my charges, filed a motion for a retrial, or offered me another plea agreement. As time passed, I prepared myself to face another trial. I knew that my charges would not be dismissed, and I thought that no better plea would be offered than the one that I had refused. But the hands of God were directing the events in order for His power to be seen.
Around a month after the trial, my attorney visited me with news regarding the status of my case. The report he brought was far beyond my expectations. Previously, the District Attorney had attempted to provide the Labette Correctional Conservation Camp (boot camp) for me as an alternative to prison. But boot camp did not accept me because of the severity of my crimes. Following my trial, however, the Lord put it upon the heart of the judge to write a letter to the administrators of boot camp requesting that they accept me into their program. This resulted in great success, and as a result of their acceptance of me, the District Attorney revised his plea bargain, which granted me community probation upon the completion of the boot camp program. This was the news that my attorney presented. Out of exceeding joy I immediately accepted the plea agreement. And after spending six months in boot camp, I was released back into the community. This amounted to a total of fourteen months of incarceration.
Though I learned many life-improving methods in boot camp, it was not enough to change my evil conduct. I did not learn the discipline needed to keep me out of the streets. And most importantly, I did not learn the reality of where a life of sin would end. Upon my release, I continued to travel the path to destruction. Even though I was given a three years’ probation period, I did not abide by the terms laid out in the agreement. I continued to associate with the same social group, and I got heavily involved with alcohol. The motivation I gained from boot camp was applied to my endeavors to become rich. And due to my involvement with illegal drugs, I was slowly gaining wealth. So there I was, living free and prospering in many ways. But even though I was gaining the desires of my heart, deep down I was afraid. I did not want to live in fear for the rest of my life, yet my fears were not capable of restraining my egotistic ways. But the hands of God were directing the events in order for His power to be seen.
A wise king once said, “He who covers his sins will not prosper.” Proverbs 28:13. Fourteen months after my release, this proverb was proved true in my life. As a result of my continual engagement in illegal activities, I found myself sitting in the county jail again. This was the second time I had been arrested as an adult. The crimes that I committed this time were not as severe as the former crimes, but the amount of time I was facing was still great. However, the effects of this latter incarceration were different from the former. Immediately after my incarceration, I began to question myself and ponder the course of my life. Most disturbing to me was the thought of leaving my little girl, who was only two months old, in a world too large for her to live in without her father. I could not believe that I abandoned her. For this and other reasons, my heart was severely broken, and I wept for many nights. “What am I doing?” “Is there a better way to live?” “Where will I end up in life?” These were some of the various questions I asked myself as I sought the meaning of my life.
As I mentioned earlier, my second incarceration was in many ways different from the first. Since I was still on probation when I was arrested, my probation was revoked, and I was immediately transported to the Department of Corrections. Before my transportation, however, the Lord began to thoroughly impress my heart. While still in the county jail, I began to read the Scriptures with an earnest desire for change. I began to cry out to God in desperation for help. I began to realize that it was my own selfish desires that were ruining my life. No longer could I blame others for my problems; I knew that I was my worst enemy. As I read the Word, revelations filled my mind. I began to confess my sins and exercise trust in Jesus Christ. Little concern was given to the amount of time I was facing. I had experienced the peace of God that expelled many worries. I had come to realize that the hands of God were directing the events in order for His power to be seen.
Upon my arrival to prison, I was comforted with the assurance that God was with me. I did not know what to expect, but I knew that I was determined to continue in His Word. After about a month, I received a visit from my attorney during which he informed me about the status of my new case. You see, somehow my new charges were dropped, even before I was sent to the Department of Corrections. The only reason I was sent was to finish the time appointed from my previous case. But while I was in prison, my new charges were refiled. During his visit, my attorney related to me the amount of time I was facing. He informed me that I could receive at least fifteen years in prison if convicted. But little did he know that the hands of God were directing the events in order for His power to be seen.
After my attorney’s visit, I remained calm and peaceful. I related the news to some of my street associates who were also serving prison sentences. They were amazed that I was facing such a large amount of time. And they were even more amazed at how I remained happy and unconcerned. They thought I was strange because of my change of conduct, and our association grew further and further apart until they finally recognized my sincerity. I was determined to live right, and I could not allow any man to persuade me to do otherwise. I had experienced the touch of God’s love, so neither life nor death could steal the joy that I had in my heart. Even with the thought of facing fifteen years, I concluded that nothing could separate me from the love of God.
As time passed, I was transported back to the county jail to face the new charges that had been refiled. I wasn’t there very long until my attorney visited me with news regarding the position of my case. To this day I am amazed at the power of God and how He continually intervened in my life. To my surprise, two of the original three charges were not refiled. It seemed as if my attorney was not fully aware of this when he visited me in prison. What we thought was a fifteen years prospect was drastically decreased. Furthermore, my attorney informed me that the District Attorney was extending a plea agreement that consisted of only a 34-month prison term consecutive to my prior case. After pondering over the pros and cons, I eventually accepted the offer. I had already experienced the prison environment and was not troubled over the thought of serving a little more time. The peace of God was ruling in my heart, and I knew that nothing would happen to me aside from His will. I knew that the hands of God were directing the events in order for His power to be seen.
In the second half of Proverbs 28:13, King Solomon says, “… whoever confesses and forsakes [his sins] will have mercy.” Just as the former half of this proverb was proved true to me, so was the latter. I was eventually transported back to prison to complete both prison sentences. For the entire forty months of my incarceration, I spent my time developing a close relationship with the Father and His Son. Hours upon hours were devoted to studying, praying, and meditating. I began to see life in a very different way. I knew that all the recent events of my life were a part of God’s plan to gain my attention. If it had not been for the Lord who was on my side, I would be either permanently incarcerated or six feet underground. But Jehovah’s love is immeasurable, and His judgments cannot be overturned. The Father is actively engaged in the administration of His saving grace. He is earnestly stretching out His arms to the lost sheep that are still wandering in the mountains and deserts of this world. And because of the fact that He has patiently labored for my deliverance, I am determined to labor with Him for the deliverance of others. By the grace of God, I will fight the good fight until the end. By His might, I will run with endurance. And until the day that my breath departs, I will earnestly work to let the world know that the hands of God are directing the events in order for His power to be seen.
A member of Steps to Life staff, Demario Carter works in the Mail Order Services Department. He can be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.