Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Sharp (03/07/13)
By Marlene Bonney
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Barbed wire stretches around the prison yard like needle-sharp rose thorns—only there are no fragrant flowers. Meshed together with electric currents, the wire spokes insure my captivity in this barren land of rules, restrictions, depravity and hopelessness. Coming outside from the cramped, foul-smelling cell is a welcome reprieve. Above the high fences, above the skirmishes and gray-clad inmates and armed prison guards, there is blue sky where the white-fluffed clouds roam free and birds fly, unrestrained. I yearn to join them there, if only for an hour.
My mind flashes back to the young boy laying beneath a maple tree, gazing up at a similar sky, a blade of grass whistling through the space between my teeth. My clothes are faded and worn and I am poor, but I do not realize that yet. I am just there, daydreaming and as free as the chirping cicadas dancing through the trees. I am innocent and content, my whole future looming ahead with countless possibilities like the limitless heavens above me. That was BEFORE.
Before my parents’ fights, before daddy left us, before mom worked two jobs to keep food on the table, before I was left alone for hours and before I hooked up with older teens who had all the answers. I knew right from wrong even then, my Bible-reading grandma’s admonitions in my background. She took me to Sunday School where I heard fascinating Bible stories. But the longer I spent time with my exciting present-day new buddies, the less time I had for church; until it became a childish memory. God and Jesus, Jonah and Abraham and Moses became hazy fairy tales, covered in layers of musty tissue paper like grandma’s ancient wedding dress.
What an arrogant fool I had become, I think now in hindsight.
My misty eyes lower long enough to break the spell, the coiled barbed wire swirls ripping holes through my horizon. The intercom buzzer signals the day’s end to a caged man’s glimpse of freedom, a hungry child wistfully looking through a candy shop window. I wonder again if the fresh air and open sky are truly meant for health and exercise or only another form of torture.
Grandma used to say every cloud has a silver lining. I am praying again. I go to a Bible class once a week, grateful for the volunteer pastors who come in from the outside, passing through the gates of the barbed wire fences and braving the clanging metal doors locked behind them. It is amazing to me that we can have anything in common, me a one-hour-a-day free man and they, one-hour-a-week caged men. We are fellow believers, though, saved by God’s grace. Even though my body is chained, my heart is no longer captive. I am free on the inside even as the razor-sharp barbs keep me hemmed in on the outside.
The probability of parole for this company embezzler is just around the corner. I pray that my rediscovered faith will keep me on the straight and narrow road once I am released. I will have another shot at life away from barbed wire fences, cramped quarters and the depraved of society’s outcasts. Day by day, during the freedom hour, I return to that little boy of yesterday and imagine what he could have become if he had made different choices. I want to reach out and shake the older youth before he turns into me. But those are also daydreams because time stands still for no man. I cannot change the past, but, with God’s help, I will change my future.
I will exchange the cold and clammy cell walls, the chains and locks, the rules and community showers, fights, hierarchies and politics of the imprisoned into a free man’s universe--a second change to give instead of taking, to bless instead of cursing, to die to selfless ambition and live for God.
The cold, sharp barbs of wire fences will become a memory. May their unyielding steel points always pierce through the armor of newfound freedom to keep me alert and I pray that
I shall never forget the man standing in the prison yard peering up through the coils of barbed wire into the open blue sky.
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