As I was being booked for jail in LA County, I thought it would be a good idea to tell them I had HIV. For one, I needed to make sure I took my meds, and for two I did NOT want to be in the general population. LA County is not a friendly jail. The last time I had been there I made sure to give up my peanut butter as quickly as I got it because I wanted to make sure I was protected while I was there. I had been in jail 5 other times but there was nothing like this. Each time before I knew I was going home, but there I was staring at 5 years in prison, and it didn’t look good.
After going through the booking, I walked over to the nurse to be questioned about my health. On the way over I saw my girlfriend sitting there, stone-faced as she answered questions from her booking officer. I looked at her, and although I had been warned not to speak to her, I whispered “I am sorry. I love you, please forgive me” in a last-ditch effort to hope that somehow I could get out of being there.
I was still riding high from the 8 ball and still drunk from the Tequila I had been drinking non-stop since noon the day before so the reality of what was taking place had not really hit me. As the jail door slammed on my cell, I noticed that it was just me there, alone, with a metal toilet attached to the sink, a metal bed with a 1-inch pad to sleep on, surrounded by solid walls all around me. I couldn’t see out of my cell in any direction, but I could hear the screams of madmen.
Cackling laughter, angry screams, and taunts were coming out of the walls all around me. “Make it stop, make it stop, please God, make it stop!”
My first night in jail was hell. Coming down off the cocaine and a bottle or more of Tequila, the slow process of sobering up delivered an even slower exposure of the reality I was imprisoned in, literally. I begged the guards for something to read but I was rejected each time. “Will you give me something to read? Anything officer, please!” Nothing. How would I kill time here? I started doing push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks but it did not take much for my heart to feel like it was going to explode. I thought about jerking off but then I got worried about getting caught.
“Oh Lord, what am I going to do!?!?!?!”
“Wait, a Bible…. They have to give me a Bible!”
Once the guard came back around, I yelled to get his attention “Excuse me officer? May I have a Bible please?” I asked in desperation as I needed a distraction, bad.
“I will be right back,” he answered.
A few hours later the guard came back with one of those small red Bibles. I had never really tried to read the Bible with any effort even though I grew up going to church 3 times a week. I did not understand it, nor did I care to but this was the only way I could distract myself. I started with Genesis and got bored. Bored and it made no sense to me at all. I turned to Revelations and started reading but that was just going to give me nightmares. Then I went to Psalms, but they did not really make any sense either. Finally, I started reading Proverbs, which actually made some sense to me. I thought to myself with each line I read, “I am doing that wrong, definitely that wrong. I am really doing that wrong!”. Then I remembered one of my high school best friends (who I used to get drunk with all the time and had even been arrested with) had become a pastor. I searched for the book of John and as I started to read about Jesus, my heart started to break.
I never understood who Jesus was, why people claimed He loved them, why people felt He gave us purpose, or even how they could be given a new life in Him. None of that ever made sense to me. For the first time in my life, I started to understand the significance of this man people dedicated their lives to.
“Jesus really did that for me?”
As soon as I asked myself that question, I got very angry at God and started cursing Him.
“Why won't you fix me!?!?!?!?! Why won't you fix me like everyone else! I begged you to change me!” I was complaining about all the times in my life I tried to get my act together but could not last longer than a few weeks.
“Why won't you fix me?!?!?! I have begged you to change me, but nothing! You fix everyone but me! Why God, why?!?!?!?”
“You have to forgive your father.” was the message I received.
“How in the hell am I supposed to do that?” I screamed back to God.
God revealed, “Because it happened to him too.”
With those words, I felt something I had never felt before in regard to my father. I felt compassion.
After compassion set in, the realization that this man who I had hated, who abused me, who cheated on my mom so many times and threw her around, who was inappropriate with my sisters, and who had been responsible for so many of the painful memories in my life, was no different than me. The man, whose funeral I showed up an hour late to because of the cocaine-fueled sex party I had the night before had kept me from sleeping, was just a hurt little boy in a man's body, like I was.
Everything I hated about that man, my father, was everything I hated about myself. I had become exactly like my father but worse. At that moment I realized that as much as I needed to forgive him, I needed to ask for forgiveness from him.
“Dad, I am sorry, forgive me. Please forgive me. I am sorry I made a mockery of your funeral, and I am sorry that I was not there for you more when you battled melanoma. I am sorry dad. Will you forgive me?”
With that cry, a ray of light started to burn holes through the boulders surrounding my shoulders, and little by little, my heart began to break...open.
Sobbing, I went back and read the book of John again and as I read, I knew I had someone else I needed to ask to forgive me.
“Father God, I am sorry. Please forgive me. I have run from you since as early as I can remember. I have run from my purpose; I know what you called me to do and I ran. I am sorry. I am sorry that I took for granted all that you had blessed me with, I am sorry for becoming a junkie, an abuser, I am sorry for all that I have done wrong. I want to be who you called me to be, not this person. I know you sent your son, Jesus, to die on the cross for MY sins. Will you forgive me? My life is no longer my own. I surrender. Use all of me for your purposes. Even behind bars, I will do what you called me to do. My life is no longer my own. Take my life, I surrender. Jesus take my life!”
At that moment what felt like lightning, shot through my body, knocking me on my butt and lifting me off the ground simultaneously. The next thing I know, I am singing “Jesus, Jesus, Praise you Jesus” making up songs because I did not know any but I just felt like singing and dancing. Now I know why I was put in isolation, because I sure as heck would not be singing or dancing around other inmates. It was the most extraordinary moment of my life and there was no denying what happened. How could I ever deny this? Jesus is not only real, He is alive in me!
Josh died right then, and in my rebirth, I became Joshua, who I was created to be all along.
The atmosphere had changed and now all the visions from my childhood that spawned out of every other traumatic event in my life started to flood my mind. I realized then that each of those visions was where God showed me what was possible if I chose Him. The dreams were not to mock me but to show me there was a better way and what was possible for my life. For the first time in my life, I chose someone else besides me to take control of my life. I had fully surrendered my life to Jesus and now it was time to get to work for Him.
Never in my wildest dreams had I thought I would get out of jail but after 5 days, I did not see the judge and was released without being charged. I was free. Pardoned for my sins against God and man. Leaving me to figure out how to fulfill the promises I made before God. Unlike all the other times I tried to turn my life around, this time I had fully surrendered and was committed to seeking Jesus with all I had and being who He created me to be.
The drug use, the sex, and poor decisions made it impossible for me to afford where I was living; I was dead broke. I was months behind on rent and now I was out of options of where to live. I had alienated everyone I knew. I had broken the trust of everyone who attempted to trust me, so calling in a favor was not something I had the luxury of doing. A few weeks before the arrest, I had taken a job in Orange County after losing my business due to my own horrible decisions made while abusing drugs, not sleeping for days at a time, and being incapable of collecting on money that was owed to me. By the grace of God, my new job decided to stand by me and allowed me to keep my job after I was let out of jail. The only issue was that I did not make enough to afford a place to live, so I ended up sleeping in my car. That lasted about a week before I remembered that I had a bunch of Marriott points from all my traveling and was able to spend the next week in a hotel room at no cost, allowing me to save money. Even being without a home and my future being unclear, I was full of hope and promise as I could feel God working on my heart in ways I had never felt before.
As I took my first steps of freedom onto the streets of Downtown LA the reality of what I had committed to had hit me. The promises I made to serve the Lord full time started to get overwhelming for me as that promise was going to be a lot easier to keep behind bars than me being free on the streets of Los Angeles.
“Now what God? What is the next step? How do I keep these promises? How do I achieve what you created me to do? How do I become the man you created me to be?”