Clancy Calman tossed and turned in his prison bunk, the bedsprings below him squeaking. He was physically exhausted after a day of working in the prison laundry room, but his mind would not stop turning. It was too full of his thoughts over recent conversations he'D had with his cellmate, Joshua Simpson.
Since the day of his arrival, Joshua had been nicknamed "The Preacher" by the other prisoners. So that's why Clancy had sworn the day he was assigned to share a cell with Joshua. Oh, brother, not one of those hypocritical preachy types, like his family, he'd muttered to a couple of his buddies. He'd sooner have his ears cut off than have to listen to all that hogwash.
So he'd made it very clear to Joshua from the very first--had grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and held him up, nose to
nose, "Listen, here, Preacher Boy! I don't want to hear any of your Bible bashing gibberish! Got that?!?he'd sneered.
Joshua had seemed undaunted, had only said calmly, "As you wish," and walked quietly away when Clancy finally released him with a shake.
But over time, Joshua's kind, patient, and peaceful demeanor had proven something Clancy couldn't deny. Joshua was different than other prisoners. And Clancy couldn't help but wonder why.
One Sunday afternoon they'd been lying in their bunks. Clancy was on the top bunk, holding his hands under his head, when boredom, and maybe curiosity, got the better of him.
"Hey, Preacher Boy!"hed grunted. "What did a holy roller like you do to get into a place like this anyway??"
That's when the whole story had come out--how Joshua had been caught in another kids truck, with several bags full of crack stashed under the seat. Joshua hadnít known anything about the drugs, but hed been charged, convicted, and sentenced just like everyone else. And now he was doing his time.
What I don't get is," Clancy said to him, Why aren't you mad? I mean, basically, you're in here for something you didn't do. So how come you're so nice to everybody all the time??
"Look, I really struggled for awhile,"Joshua answered. "But my parents, especially my dad, helped me to get everything into perspective. "When it comes right down to it, sin has its consequences. I didnt deal drugs like Ive been accused of, but I did sneak around with people I wasn't allowed to hang out with. I knew I was doing the wrong thing. So I have to live with the results, even though I don't deserve them."
So basically, your old man said you'd made your bed, you had to lie in it, and you've accepted that," Clancy surmised. "Man, you're nothing but a big wimp, are you??"
"No, it wasn't like that at all,"Joshua said patiently. "My folks have been supportive through this whole thing. They hired the best lawyer, they visit and write all the time, send care packages...I couldn't have made it without their love and care. But it's like my dad always says. Sometimes you can't have what you want, even if it's what you think you'ree entitled to. So you have to make the best of what you have. Right now I've got a life within the walls of this prison, and I've got to make the best of it. Being mean to people isn't going to help anyone."
Their relationship had been a bit friendlier after that. Clancy had to admit sharing a cell with Joshua was a lot more pleasant than the other inmates he'd had to live with. Not to mention the fact that he didn't have to worry about his few personal belongings being lifted or about a fight erupting at any time.
And on top of that, Joshua always shared the care packages his mother sent. Clancy's favorite was Mrs. Simpsons soft, chewy chocolate chip cookies. They'd eaten a whole dozen of them just that morning. The last time hed had them had been the weekend before his whole world fell apart, when his parents had put him into the Boys'Home.
A tear trickled down Clancy's cheek. He missed so much being part of the Calman clan. Why had they rejected him like that, shut him out, abandoned him? Why had they even bothered to adopt him, if they hadn't wanted a son?
Because that was the real issue, wasn't it? Clancy's three sisters, Lisa, Beth, and Ellie, had never been in trouble as he had. They'd been happy and free, laughing and playing, while Clancy had been on punishment, doing extra chores, or standing in the corner, or going out to the woodshed with his father, especially when hed lied about something he'd done.
His sisters would have lied too, just to get out of trouble, if they were punished as much as he had been.
But his mother had used that as an excuse not to defend him when he'd been falsely accused of Armed Robbery and Murder. So now he was stuck here, in this prison, rotting his life away, without hope.
Joshua still had the love and support of his family. That was why he could go forward with hope. But Clancy had no hope--only a future filled with loneliness and isolation. Even when he got out of prison, there'd be no one who cared for him.
"What about the letter from Ellie?" an almost audible, still, small voice whispered within him.
Clancy kicked his cover sheet off in frustration. "What about it?" he thought scoffingly. "Just a bunch of holy roller Bible verses, full of thee's and thou's. Who needs that?"
Clancy sat up and dangled his legs over the edge of his bunk. Just as well he had the top, or he'd have hit his head.
Clancy couldn't believe his kid sister still fell for that garbage their parents had fed them as little kids. Sure, just like the girls, he had once knelt at the family altar and prayed "The sinners' prayer." A lot of good it had done him, sent away to an orphanage, and now locked up in this cage, like an animal. A child of God? HA!!
By now, Clancy was pacing back and forth in the cell, stepping lightly, so as not to wake Joshua. "Reread the letter," the still, small voice whispered. And strangely, curiosity began to stir Clancy's heart.
He reached up and pulled the crumpled-up letter out from beneath his mattress. Quietly moving toward the desk he shared with Joshua, he turned on the small lamp at his lowest setting, sat down on the plastic chair, leaned forward, resting his forhead in his hand, his elbow on the desk, and began to read.
It's been a long time, but I just want you to know how much I miss you. Remember when I was little, how you used to swing me around like an airplane, and help me make play houses under that big birch tree in the backyard? I still have the broken teacups we used to use when we played Farmer and Mrs. Brown.
(The corner of Clancy's lips raised a bit. Ellie had been so cute and sweet.)
Anyway, Clancy, I won't keep you, but I just thought my big brother might be encouraged by some Bible verses I've been studying lately. So here they are:
For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all of your hearts. And I will be found by you and I will restore your fortunes, and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you and I will bring you back to the places where I sent you into exile."
Clancy, I was only four, but I remember the day you gave your heart to Jesus. So that's why I know He intends these promises for you. I hope you'll call out to Jesus, and look for Him, and call upon Him, so that He can show you the good and loving plans He has for your life.
Clancy, He really does love you, and so do I, and I always will.
Clancy leaned back in the plastic chair, combing his hair through his fingers. By now, tears were streaming down Clancy's cheeks. His little sister hadn't forgotten him, and according to her, neither had God.
The question was, could God's promises be trusted? And even if they could, were they for him?