Most of us look back on our high school days with fond memories and generally regard that time of our life with nostalgia. However, I want to tell you about a ninth grade girl whose life took a radical turn in one single moment. And her memories of “the good old days” are very different from ours.
At age 15, Keisha moved out of her parent’s home and started living with a friend. Any kid that would prefer to face the world without her mom and dad, must have had a hard life. One afternoon, while riding in a car with a young man she knew, they got into a heated argument. It was the final straw for Keisha. Years of pain bubbled to the surface and a dark rage boiled inside. She was done with being disrespected. When the vehicle came to a stop at the next light, Keisha took hold of a gun, put it to the boy’s temple, then pulled the trigger. That split second decision changed her life forever. While her friends had fun going to the movies, Prom and graduation, she sat alone in prison for felony murder.
When I met Keisha she was 35 years old. She had spent twenty years of her life in prison and was about to be released. She was excited, but a little apprehensive, about being set free into the unfamiliar world. She had spent more of her life behind bars than she had ever been outside, and she longed for simple things like lying out in the sun and looking up at the stars.
But let me tell you how I met Keisha. Last Saturday I went into her prison for a ministry event where a guest speaker shared her personal testimony about God’s forgiveness. After sharing, the speaker asked the room of women to raise their hands if they wanted someone to talk to. Every hand went straight up in the air, except Keisha’s. She sat slouched in a chair, arms crossed, at the back of the room.
I happened to be sitting right next to Keisha and noticed her hardened disposition to the message that was being shared that day. But I wasn’t going to force her to talk to me if she wasn’t interested. So I stood up and walked around the jail to see if anyone else wanted to talk. However, the other interested inmates had already paired up with different volunteers. When I looked back towards Keisha, the inmate sitting next to her made eye contact with me and gave a quick finger gesture towards Keisha…as if to tell me I needed to come to her. So I walked over and said, “Would you like to talk?”
Keisha shrugged her shoulders, stared at the floor, and mumbled, “I don’t care.” I presented a quick, simple Gospel message to her and explained how Jesus paid for all her sins, no matter what they were. I said if she surrendered her life to Him, she could be assured she would have freedom for all eternity in heaven. But when I asked her if she wanted a relationship with God, she confidently looked at me and said, “No. I ain’t never gonna be good like that.”
Keisha insisted she wasn’t good enough to be loved by God, but I let her know that wasn’t true. I clarified how salvation wasn’t about how good we are, it’s about how good HE is. I told her no matter what other people in the world thought of her, the Creator of the Universe knows her by name and wants to have a relationship with her…because He adores her, and has a great plan for her life. Then, all of a sudden, she began to cry. I could tell that affirmation was something she wasn’t used to. And through streams of tears she said, “Ain’t nobody ever told me that before.”
At that moment, the prison guard announced we only had five minutes left to talk. With my heart racing and butterflies in my stomach, I looked at Keisha one more time and said, “Are you sure you don’t want a relationship with God? Because, He really wants one with you!” She smiled and whispered, “I’m ready.” I couldn’t believe what I had heard, so I asked again, “What did you say? I couldn’t hear you?” She smiled and whispered a little louder, “Okay, I’m ready.”
I was so excited I jumped out of my chair and started praising God. She laughed at my happy dance but I just couldn’t contain myself. Then, in a timid, quiet voice she began to pray for the first time in her life. She confessed to God that she was a sinner who needed His help. She knew He died for her sins and she admitted she needed His forgiveness for a different life.
I’m excited about what the rest of her life will be like now. My prayer is that she gets many moments to lie in the sun and look up at the stars… and I hope she praises God for everything He has done for her when she does. If anybody needs a powerful God to move mountains in her life, it’s Keisha. And, my prayer is that He really shows off for her now.