Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that He Himself is righteous, and for that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus. –Romans 3:23-26
I was looking back on 2013 and found something interesting. My preparation for prison coincides with a walk Jesus made over 2,000 years ago. My walk was to eventually lead to prison. Jesus had a more important walk to make. His walk was to Jerusalem to be crucified and die for our sins. My walk was insignificant, but Jesus’ walk was made out of love to save us from our sins!
My preparation for prison began on Ash Wednesday, 2/13/2013, and ended the day I reported to the Atlanta Federal Prison on April 1, 2013. The day after Easter. The day after Jesus had risen from the grave.
What is Ash Wednesday? The first day of Lent. It’s 40 days excluding Sundays. Lent ends on Saturday, the day before Easter. That Saturday is called “Holy Saturday.” During Lent we fast, we give up something. I was preparing to give up my freedom. But Jesus was preparing to die for us more than 2,000 years ago. What I was giving up was insignificant but Jesus was giving up His life to save us.
On Ash Wednesday 2013, I attended a very moving church service at Emerald Avenue United Methodist Church in Knoxville, Tenn. The special service was conducted by Pastor Jim Bailes, and he was assisted by retired Pastor Bob Bean. My pastor, John Gargis of Lincoln Park United Methodist Church, was also in attendance. I felt good concerning the number of young people attending the service. I know this country has a bright future as these youngsters become the leaders of this nation.
During the Ash Wednesday service, the pastor marked our foreheads with the sign of the cross. Ashes were used to make the sign. This was my first Ash Wednesday service. I did not know if the sign should remain until it wore off or if it should be washed off after the service. I left my sign on my forehead until it wore off. I just felt it was the correct thing to do.
At the end of the service Pastors Bailes, Bean, and Gargis prayed for me. They knew I was facing a prison term. Then the pastors surprised me! They asked me to pray for them! That was really shocking. Me, a criminal, praying for men of God! I am sure Jesus was smiling.
During this time 2,000 years ago Jesus constantly prayed, staying in touch with the Father. He was on a mission, too.
Wednesday, February 15, 2013, was “S” day, my sentencing day. The federal defender and I walked over to the U.S. District Court for sentencing. Bobby Hutson, the federal defender, asked me how I felt as we walked from his office. I told him, “I feel fine.”
Hutson was concerned that I was afraid. But throughout the entire ordeal, fear was not a problem. I knew that I could bear whatever sentence I was ordered to serve. I jokingly told Hutson, “There is not a firing squad waiting for me. I am fine.”
Also, I kept thinking and believing that God will not let the judge put a sentence on me that is more than I could bear. I believe in Psalm 56:11: In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” And in Psalm 27:14: Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait on the Lord.
Sentencing was not that long. My two best friends, John and H.L. Ford,were in attendance. Their support throughout this situation has been invaluable. I had pleaded guilty on June 2012. So I had already taken responsibility for my crime. But more importantly, I had confessed my sin to God and asked Him for forgiveness. As 1 John 1:9 states, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
I was sentenced to to 46 months for Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud. The court allowed me to self-report to the Atlanta institution. Thank God, that in itself was a blessing. I later heard horror stories of prisoners who were taken to prison by the Marshal Service. I remained free until the U.S. Marshals Office sent me a letter with the date and time I was to report.
Palm Sunday was March 24, and The Passover was Monday, March 25. I attended Sunday school and church on March 24. I spent Monday the 25th reading the Bible and preparing for prison. I had received my letter from the Marshall telling me to report on April 1.
Over 2,000 years ago Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So the people, excited about his coming, welcomed him. As John 12:12-13 states, The next day a great crowd who had come to the feast heard Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” Jesus has his last Passover meal on earth. He is betrayed, arrested and abandoned by his disciples. He is also denied by Peter and later crucified on Good Friday.
My last days can not be compared in any way to what happened to Jesus, my Lord and Savior. Jesus died bearing the sins of us all on his shoulders. I was only bearing my guilt for breaking man’s law.
On Easter Sunday, March 31, I was at Lincoln Park United Methodist Church celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. John 20:1-2: Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw the stone had been taken away from the tomb. [ Please Read John 20 for the rest of what happened. It is marvelous and astounding!]
As for me, I said my farewells to my brothers and sisters in Christ at Lincoln Park. Returned to the home of my best friends, the Fords, and said goodbye to them and their family. I then hugged Winnie, my dog, and told her to behave and be a good puppy until I returned.
Around 2 a.m. on April 1, 2013, I boarded a Greyhound Bus for Atlanta. I arrived at the prison by 11 a.m., checked in with the guards, and started serving my sentence.
As I compared my last 40 days with the last 40 days of Jesus, there is NOTHING to compare. Our Savior gave everything for us sinners who deserved nothing. Jesus was not guilty of any crime. I was. Jesus gave all out of love. I was being forced to give up my freedom. There was nothing noble about a convicted criminal going to prison.
But for Jesus, the Lamb of God, all praise and glory to our Lord and Savior!
Comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or postal-mailed to Bernard Addison where he is serving 46 months in prison for Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud.
FPC-Atlanta; Dorm D
P.O. Box 150160
Atlanta, GA 30315