If, at the beginning of spring semester senior year, you had told me I would be in college, I would have said you were crazy, but that is where I am now. My tale includes some rather unique locales, including a trip to a juvenile detention center (JDC). You see, I was never the perfect kid in high school, and it took some hard measures for God to get my attention. I was saved at the age of 12, and for a few years, my life was on track. At 15, though, I became rebellious and things spiraled downward. By senior year, my parents had problems with me, although no one knew it since I still went to church, even participating in our Sunday School discussions. That was all an act.
In March, things really got out of hand. My temper flew off the charts and sometimes I got violent. One day, I was in a heated argument with my parents and ended up slapping my mother. Before I knew it, my dad had me pinned on the ground. Thirty minutes later, I was in a police car on my way to the detention center. I went through the whole process of “tagging and bagging” and found myself in an orange jumpsuit, locked in a small concrete cell with an inmate named Aaron. JDC is a place with four walls, a tacky dress style, rules stricter than anywhere within 50 miles, and bad food, but I took the whole thing in stride, convinced my parents wouldn’t press charges.
Three days into my new life as a convict, my section had visitors from the Rock of Ages Prison Ministry. When I heard their name, I recognized it as a group mentioned in our church budget. I fought with myself, knowing that God was already working on me, pushing me toward His goal of molding me into His image. The man who spoke didn’t deliver the normal message of salvation, or a hellfire and brimstone message either. Instead, he told his testimony of salvation, and invited anyone to come forward. It was then that I rededicated my life to the Lord. I started acting differently and finally admitted that while slapping my mother was an accident, my attitude was radically off-center from where God wanted me. I decided that even if I were stuck in jail, I would do as God asked.
Later, another church group visited and asked if anyone would like to sing. I volunteered to sing two songs, which intensified my status as a target for criticism among the inmates, but it also brought questions from others who said I had guts to get up and sing about God. I managed to get a small New Testament to read in my cell and my roommate actually asked me about it. It was there that I truly got to see God move, as the conversation led to my testimony, it led my roommate to the Lord. I invited him to my church at home and we got along very well.
After eight days, my parents did drop the charges and I went home. I remember the man from Rock of Ages saying he had graduated from Tennessee Temple University, and I decided that was where I too wanted to go. I have tried as much as I can to do God’s will, and although there have been times when I started to slip, I have returned as best I could, with His help.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.