Staring at his food, the man picked at it a few more times, then finally gave in to the fact that he wasn’t going to eat this last meal. Sighing, he pushed the tray away from his cot. He lay back down and stared at the ceiling, knowing it would be his last time to do so.
The Bible next to him sat on a small table they had provided. Being in for so long brought a few privileges, and the table was one of them. He wondered how many others would ever consider such a small and warped table a privilege. But after twenty years, one began to appreciate the little things.
He picked up his Bible and slowly opened it. He was careful as he leafed through the pages, knowing which were falling apart and which were still bound to the spine. He stopped at the most damaged part of the Holy Book – the Psalms. Finding his favorite, he began to read. After only a few verses he closed his eyes, and a small tear seeped out from under his eyelid.
He was interrupted by the sound of approaching footsteps. He closed the Bible and waited as the footsteps drew closer to his cell.
“You’re not going to finish that?” A gigantic form of a man stood on the opposite side of the bars. His question was genuine. He was concerned.
The man in the prison cell shook his head.
“Anything wrong with it?” The guard looked hurt. “It was made special, you know?”
The man sympathized. “It’s fine. I’m just not…hungry. I tried, I really did.”
The guard smiled. “It’s okay. Not everyone can eat their last…” The words trailed off. The guard lowered his head, not willing to look at the man in the cell.
“It’s not my last, you know.” He clutched the Bible to his chest. “I’ll eat again,” he said, and tapped his index finger against the leather cover of God’s Word, “and it’ll be a feast that will last for eternity.”
“It will, I know.” The guard’s smile widened. “A lot of the guys in here will take part in that feast because of you.”
Silence for a few moments and the guard looked to his left. After a few seconds the cell door began to open, and the guard walked in.
The man on the cot stood up. His small body was almost lost next to the big. The prisoner held out his hand. “I want to thank you.”
The guard said nothing as he ignored the man’s hand, hugging him instead. After the hug, the man stepped back and wiped away his tears. “It’s me who should be thanking you. You know, my youngest is getting baptized this Sunday.”
“That’s great, that really is.”
“And it’s all because of…”
“…all because of Him.”
“Yeah, because of Him.”
The small man began to cry, and he bowed his head.
The guard spoke, although it was difficult. Hard. “They’ll be here soon.” He had trouble finding the words. “Are you…ready?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be.”
The guard nodded. “I’ll let you have these last few minutes alone then.” He picked up the tray and stepped outside of the cell. Looking left, he half-nodded his head, and the heavy door began to move on its tracks. It closed with a loud bang.
Silent goodbyes were exchanged and the prison guard turned away.
The man stood facing his cot, then knelt down on his knees. He spent the time in silent prayer, waiting.
It seemed like a lifetime to the prisoner before two men were standing at his cell. “It’s time, John,” said one, and the cell door began its mechanical trek.
John stepped out of the small room that had been his home for the last twenty years. He looked once more before turning to the two guards.
“You know we have to cuff you?”
He held out his arms. “I understand.”
They slowly began the walk, the footsteps echoing through the large open area. John looked forward, never turning his head. The other inmates were silent. Goodbyes had been said the night before.
John came to a halt as another mechanical door made its way on the tracks. Suddenly, the familiar words to “Amazing Grace” were heard from somewhere above, on another level. As John and the guards resumed their long walk, the song that had begun by a single soloist soon became a chorus of voices as the others in the cellblock joined in.
John's knees began to buckle.
“Are you gonna make it, John?”
He looked up at the guards, smiling through the tears. “You know what? I am.” He continued his walk. “I really am.”
“That’s all you had when you came in?”
John looked at the wallet and the gold watch on the counter. “Yeah. I suppose it is.”
The guard that sat on the other side of the bulletproof glass smiled at John. “But that’s not all you’re taking with you, is it, John?”
John agreed. “No it’s not, praise the Lord. Not by a long shot.” John smiled as the heavy solid steel doors began to open. The bright sun slowly crept through the cracks of the doors and light began to cover John’s face.
“Whatcha' gonna do, John? Any ideas?”
John stared at the day in front of him, a day empty of bars, and a new life empty of imprisonment. “Don’t rightly know.” He smiled as he stepped into the sunlight. “Think I’ll start by taking me a walk.” He clinched tight to the Bible in his hands. “A long, long walk…”
“…if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free.” - John 8:36 (NLT)