The exercise yard was enclosed on three sides by dirty cyclone fences tipped with barbed wire. Freezing cold air cut through the yard like hailstones through the paper walls of a Japanese house.
Over one hundred men from a wide variety of backgrounds filled the yard, huddled together in small like-minded groups. As I threaded my way cautiously through this throng I felt waves of hatred and loathing sent my way akin to heat radiating from an overused oven. I kept my eyes doggedly on the ground. Just as my brother’s cat saw eye contact as a blatant attempt at domination, I had soon learnt that the same rules applied here.
I finally reached the enclosure’s southeast corner. A small crowd had already gathered. I turned around and stood with my back to the fence, the frigid wind cutting straight through my inadequate clothing. I should have been despondent but instead announced; “I am honored and overjoyed because today it is my turn!”
A chorus of replies greeted me.
“Good on you, brother!”
“Let’s hear you, brother!”
As I began to speak I met the eyes of all in my small audience, finding several kindred spirits, a few doubtfuls, and those come to enjoy the brewing spectacle. “`Delight your heart in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart’, the Bible says. And it is with great joy that I can tell you today that Jesus Christ Himself is the desire of my heart. I am content. In fact, even in the midst of this nightmare, I am happy.”
A commotion across the yard attracted my attention. Five prison wardens wielding riot clubs waded through the irregular throng of malcontents, who parted before them like schools of fish fleeing hungry sharks.
One of the spectators saw the wardens approaching and ridiculed me; “You’re a lunatic! And a liar - no-one could be happy here!”
“Sir, your happiness is dictated by your circumstances, something which you cannot control and that changes like Melbourne weather. When everything goes your way, you are happy. Not so with me - I have a deep happiness with unshakeable foundations, not affected by my circumstances…”
The wardens broke through my audience and reached me. The leader’s club rose and came down on my collarbone. I felt the bone crack but remained standing as pain washed through me like forked lightning stabbing forth from an angry sky.
The warden lifted his club again and pulled me to him by the scruff of my collar, “Traitor to humanity! People like you are the only obstacle to true world peace! Renounce your adherence to your banned religious beliefs and embrace the Maitreya, the true incarnation of the universal Christ Consciousness, and I will walk away right now.”
“I acknowledge that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.” I replied unwaveringly.
The club descended and pain blossomed through my head. Several more times the club rose and fell until I collapsed to the ground like a puppet with its strings cut. Bruised, bleeding, and suffering a couple of fractured bones, I tried to regain my feet but found myself pitching headfirst towards the concrete.
Strong arms unexpectedly caught me and helped me to a sitting position. My primary critic sat in front of me. “Why do you do this? Every Sunday one of you Christians steps up and delivers a sermon that results in you receiving a callous beating. What am I missing? In your shoes I would live in dread of this. Yet you welcome it. And I hate to admit it, but you do indeed look…happy.”
Breathing was painful but I was able to speak. “My happiness is founded in Jesus Christ and in my relationship with Him. I have learnt that He is in complete control of my life, in fact, and of all things. I have nothing to fear or worry about. Everything that happens in my life is part of His plan, something He has allowed to happen. So instead of worrying I relax and accept His lordship and rejoice in Him.”
My critic appraised me. “I am a Jew, and in refusing to accept the Mark and renounce Judaism, was thrown in this diabolical prison. But my faith is not helping me. I feel constricted by rules and regulations. Can you convince me that your Jesus is the Messiah I have been waiting for?”
“Let’s start with the Book of Isaiah.” I answered.
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