Roy robbed banks… a lot of them. He ran away from home at 13, ending up in a Chicago apartment building known to house prostitutes. Roy said they “raised him” and thus his life of crime began.
When we met I was a young, naive, blonde haired, blue eyed co-ed trying hard to work my way through graduate school. Roy, on the other hand, had just finished serving a 20-year prison term and was trying hard to navigate life on the “outside”.
We found ourselves working side by side for a local dentist—Doug. Having taught himself to make dentures while incarcerated, Roy had a skill the newly established dentist needed. The State paid half of Roy’s salary the first year out of prison. Apart from the criminal record… it was a no brainer for the cash strapped doctor. I had years of experience in the dental business so Doug hired me part-time to do most of the remaining jobs. I remember the day Roy and I were introduced. I didn’t know what to make of this ex-con and he definitely didn’t know what to make of me. We had nothing in common—well almost nothing.
Roy had accepted Christ as his Savior the last year of his imprisonment. I had accepted Christ by myself, in my bed, when I was eight. Roy wasn't sure my story was real so he put me to the test.
A few weeks after our introduction I opened my Bible on a Saturday morning to find a sticky note from Roy. He had written, “I just wanted to see if you really read this when no one else is looking.” The next Monday I waved the note and he smiled without embarrassment.
In the following months I saw Roy struggled with how to live on the “outside” and do it in a way that honored Jesus.
One Monday morning Roy walked into the office and announced that he had almost robbed a bank over the weekend. You could have heard a pin drop. Roy didn’t wait. The story burst forth as if he couldn’t contain it.
On the previous Friday Roy had received his first paycheck in more that 20 years. I recalled seeing him look at it, fold it and put it in his wallet. Though he showed no emotion on the outside, Roy was crashing on the inside. He told us he had spent all weekend staring at the four walls of his tiny apartment thinking,
“I worked my tail off and this is all I get? I could make 100 times this amount in one bank job. Maybe I get caught, but so what? Prison isn’t so bad. You get fed, taken care of, no worries… And if I don’t get caught, I’ll have more than enough to live on…”
Roy said it was only his relationship with Jesus that held him back.
Doug realized Roy needed more than just a job. He took Roy under his wing and we began to see him thrive.
Roy had to learn skills most of us take for granted. I was often the guinea pig. The following is one of those moments and I will NEVER forget it!
Roy looked at me intently one afternoon, “You gained 5 pounds over the weekend didn’t you?”
I saw Doug shake his head at Roy, but Roy didn’t take the hint. “No.” I responded, surprised. “I’m actually on a diet and I lost a pound.” I turned my back to him and continued my work.
I felt his eyes on me. “No,” he said with complete confidence, “You definitely gained five pounds.”
Doug whisked Roy into the other room. I heard their whispers as Doug tried to explain the delicate topic of a woman’s weight.
Roy later apologized and explained, “All my life I’ve only known prostitutes. A prostitute’s value is dependent upon her appearance. If you really cared about a woman you would let her know if she gained weight.”
My first reaction (inwardly) was, “So he still thinks I gained 5 pounds.” But then I saw it for what he intended it to be—an act of friendship. I’ve never been, and will never be again, so touched by someone telling me I’ve gained weight!
Roy went on to marry a wonderful woman and the last I heard from him he was doing really well.
I thought of Roy when I heard Jon Ponder’s story. Like Roy, he was also a convicted bank robber. In Jon’s story, the FBI agent who arrested him also helped him turn his life around. The transition from prison to freedom can be overwhelmingly difficult. I’m so thankful for organizations like Prison Fellowship (who introduced Roy to Jesus) and Hope for Prisoners (that helps them thrive after prison).
Jon Ponder received a pardon from President Trump—which is wonderful! But the truth is, both Roy and Jon already received a full pardon from Jesus when they accepted Him as Savior. When they were still behind bars, they found true freedom. Their stories shine like a beacon of hope for us all.
True freedom is only experienced in the forgiving love of Jesus.
If you want to know how to begin a relationship with Jesus and experience the freedom, joy, peace and power He gives don’t wait another minute! You can do it right now!
If you are a follower of Jesus but you aren't experiencing the joy and peace He promised you too can be set free! Click here to find out how!
Copyright ©2021 Kathy Bright