No. 486
Sometimes before a man will let himself look up, he has to get all the way down. Sometimes only the bottom leads up. Some of us have let pride, fear, anger, hopelessness, and an infinity of other negative emotions conspire to keep our faces turned toward the darkness. For us, only rock bottom offers the opportunity to turn our faces toward the light. This is a heart-wrenching commentary. Nonetheless it is true. Rock bottom came for me in November of 1986, in a jail cell in Louisville, Kentucky. Jail was nothing new for me. Rather jail was the norm in my life. I was 40 years old, but I had spent less than four years outside of prison since I had turned 21. More than 15 years in prison - in some of the harshest prisons in the world - had forged me into a terrible crucible.
Sitting in a filthy, stinking jail tank in Louisville in 1986, I knew that I faced the very real possibility of spending the rest of my life locked away from society. I was facing a new bank robbery charge that carried up to 25 years in prison and I was also facing a 20-year parole violation term. The probability of my spending the next 25 years, or more, in prison was great. The emotions tearing me apart and torturing me were indescribable. Mixed in with the fear and rage, mixed in with the bitterness and hate, mixed in with the resentment and frustration, mixed in with the hopelessness and false pride was the self loathing. Self-hatred was the terrible foundation that propped it all up. Self-disgust was the mortar that bound it all together.
What you have just read are words that can be found in the prologue of a book titled, "Fear Runner," written by Joe Mosier, who now lives with his wife, Alice, in North Pekin, Ill. Joe contacted me after reading one of my columns in the local newspaper, The Pekin Daily Times. With his letter he included a copy of the aforementioned book, and after I read it I concluded that his was one of the most tragic and heart-wrenching true-life stories that I have ever read. What is so tragic is not that he has spent a great deal of his life in prison; a lot of men and women do that for crimes they have committed. What is so tragic is why Joe went there in the first place. If the thoughts I share here save even one Joe Mosier from going to prison down the road, it will be worth it all.
Joe Mosier was born and grew up in a middle class family in a small town in Ohio. His mother had a son before his father married her, but she was killed when he was 3 years of age. Later his father remarried and his stepmother was very good to him. What set Joe on the wrong path is that he had an abusive father, not abusive in the physical sense but abusive emotionally and psychologically, which can often be far worse. When Joe did things in school that were outstanding, his father rather than praising and supporting him would be highly critical. One time after their little league baseball team had won the city championship, at the supper table Joe said, "I'm so happy I could tell the whole world."
At this point his father threw his fork into his plate and screamed at Joe, "The whole *##!*@ world doesn't give a #%!$#!. Just shut up and eat your food, or go to your room." You have the picture. Over time Joe developed a tremendous fear of his father. Unfortunately, his father thought respect and fear were the thing. Joe's reaction was to run. To run away and hide. Over time he became very good at running away and hiding and he developed many creative ways to do this. Fantasizing and daydreaming, bragging and lying, game playing and wall building were all ways he ran away and hid as a child, and on into his adult years. Later in life, alcohol and marijuana came along.
Finally, prison became the ultimate hiding form of running away. Prison became the ultimate hiding place. There were obviously many stops in between Joe Mosier growing up, getting out of school, getting married, having children and the day he made the decision to commit his first crime that over time escalated to being a seasoned bank robber and long stints behind prison bars. The message here is simple. As parents, especially fathers, we have the power over our children's lives to make them champions or to make them prison inmates. In my book, that's really something to think about. Fear and emotional abuse is never a good motivator.
Fortunately Joe's story has a happy ending. In that jail tank in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1986, he surrendered his will and his life completely to Jesus Christ and began to live for Him. In addition to allowing the Lord to completely control his life, he had a woman who had a Godly, selfless love and who drove thousands of miles to visit him in prison and to wait till he was free to enjoy life together. He has been out of prison now for more than 10 years and he told me, "I will never go back." That, my friend, is the power of God at work in someone's life.
(Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)