The Silent Light
“All rise,” the voice of the large bailiff bellowed across the courtroom. This was a moment of anxiety and trepidation for most convicted felons. For Richard David Gaston, it was more like the end of a long wait in a hospital ER, when the nurse finally steps through the door and calls your name.
Richard had already spent a year behind bars awaiting his trial and sentence. Time he now considers well spent. This day would end the hours of uncertainty as to the duration of his sentence. After his assured conviction, Richard, now only wanted to know where, and how long.
The soft and simultaneous rumble of bodies rising in the courtroom, gave way to a deafening silence. Richard had to literally pull his mind back into the moment, as he had become quickly absorbed by that momentary hush. Silence had become his compassionate friend – a rare and precious commodity that he craved more than food. Silence had accompanied his salvation and the deliverance from the “Dark Voices.”
Richard Gaston lived in a mobile home, a stones throw away from the Long Branch Quik Mart, a convenience store on Highway 60 in Lumpkin County, Georgia. On April 5, 2005, he and an armed accomplice stepped into the store and made off with an undisclosed amount of money. Richard was arrested two days later, but his accomplice evaded authorities for nearly a year.
Richard was a meth-head. He was addicted to methamphetamine. At age twenty-eight, his body looked like a man of seventy, while his mind functioned like an electrical appliance with frayed wiring. His whole life consisted of procuring, using and selling crystal-meth. He obeyed only one command – the dark voices of addiction.
He claimed it was the dark voices who initiated and planned the robbery of the Quick Mart that spring afternoon. This was the scheme the voices allegedly devised.
First of all, Richard needed an accomplice and a gun. He knew where he could acquire both. A fellow meth-user by the name of Jack Ballard was contacted and offered the position. He readily accepted and brought his pistol.
The dark voices instructed Richard to make a mask of the stocking cap he always wore, by cutting two holes for his eyes. At around 2:00 p.m. the lone cashier would make his daily trip to the trash dumpster. If there were no customers around, they would follow the cashier back into the store and empty the cash-register.
Everything went as planned, except for one minor detail. The voices had failed to instruct Richard to cut a hole in the stocking cap for his mouth. Having trouble breathing as he ran from the store, he pulled off the cap and threw it to the ground. It was the identification of the cap that led to his arrest.
While enduring the noise of the county jail, and the withdrawals from his addiction, Richard saw little hope and no future. He had conceded his place among the others. He searched his mangled mind and heart for a reason, but found none
One morning as he lied asleep on his bunk, a fellow inmate dropped a book on his side – with a handwritten note: “Read what this man named John said.”
Reading the passages over and over, Richard knew he wanted to walk in that Light, but where was this Jesus he could not see - wanting his confession? He had already confessed to his crime – what more must he confess?
Richard was afraid to listen to the “unseen” again, but he was desperate. Could this be a voice that would bring light to his dark life? Who is this Jesus? Is he really….?
His final year in prison brought a fellowship of forgiveness, love, and thankfulness – words the “dark voices” never spoke. Richard marveled at the manner the Light moved in, rather silent.
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