A letter from a prisoner: the transformation of a self-reliant boy to a God-reliant man

June 12, 2018 Length: 6:50

Fr. Seraphim Holland reads a letter from a prisoner who will be baptized this month.

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This letter was read to me to me this week, two weeks before this now God-reliant man is to be baptized. I transcribed it from his handwritten copy. I have known him for a year. Prison ministry can be quite exhausting and even very frustrating (the devil is truly in the details), but the rewards are incalculable. It is always amazing and even surprising to see somebody “gets it”. I think God gives these kinds of consolations to pastors, and strugglers in general, to keep us going. I have a friend that I tease because she sees metaphor in everything; well, it takes one to know one. I met Pete literally five days before my son +Daniel died last year. Only a few days after the anniversary of his death, will have the privilege of bringing Pete into new life. I have been given permission to propagate this letter.

A teenage boy embarked upon a self-reliant journey at the age of 13. He carried with him only a selfish desire of
foolishness. He wanted to do things his own way. What led him on this journey was his first narcotic experience. The
first time he stimulated his mind, he wanted more. As he traveled along on his journey, his experimentation with
narcotics covered a wide range of stimulants. For this boy, stimulating the mind was the apex of his free time,
namely weekends. Stimulating his mind became his focal point. If he needed to lie to acquire that rush, he’d lie. If he
needed to steal, he’d steal. He’d beg and borrow if need be. His desire for stimulation was growing out of control,
but he didn’t know that, and even if he did, he denied it because he was a liar.
By the time he was 15, he had experienced another type of stimulation, the one of the body with the female
counterpart. He would soon master the art of manipulation and got girls to please his desires. Now his mind craved
the narcotic stimulation and his body lusted for the sexual. But he couldn’t see it that way; he thought he was only
having fun.
His mother would often tell him that he was traveling on the wrong road. But the stimulations he was
experiencing far outweighed those words.
This self-destructive journey landed him in prison at the age of 22. But all that he could and would think about
were those stimulants. And so, upon release from prison, it was time to fulfill that craving and lust. And in the
attempt to appease those cravings and that lust, he found himself back in prison nine months later. What was on his
mind? - stimulants.
This vicious cycle would repeat itself again. And still he thought that he was only having fun. At the age of 37 he
realized that he was not having fun. There is nothing fun about hurting people, using people. There is nothing fun
about having a daughter you don’t know and who doesn’t know you, he would say.
He needed change but didn’t know how to change and was too weak to change even if he knew how. He did the
only thing that he knew he could do. He turned to God and begged His help.
From that day, that one-time self-reliant boy who embarked on a selfish journey, embarked as a man on a Godreliant
journey. A journey of change. Renewal.
One day this man was meditating about a farmer, the farmer’s seed and the farmer’s water. And it dawned on
him. From the smallest insect to the largest mammal, water is essential. From the most delicate flower to the
strongest tree, water is essential. No matter how many long hot hours the farmer worked and no matter how many
countless seeds he planted, if he doesn’t water those seeds they will not bring forth life. And where there is no life
there is death.
In the past year of this man’s life he has learned that even the spirit of man requires water to bring forth life. And
this water is to be found in holy baptism.
The farmer is the church of God, which is the body of Christ our Savior, which is given life by the Spirit of Truth.
The farmer’s seed is the Word of God. The farmer’s water is Holy Baptism.
The boy who foolishly embarked on a selfish journey has been graciously led to the farmer, who has graciously
given him seed, which he has joyfully sowed in his heart and is patiently and prayerfully awaiting the farmer to
bestow upon him the water that will bring forth life. And by the grace of God he will strive to stand tall and strong
and find comfort in the Spirit of God which, like the wind, blows wheresoever it is naturally disposed, and “thou
hearest its sound that thou knowest not from what place it comes from and where it goes”
; this is everyone who
has been born of the Spirit.
Oh Lord have mercy on me, the foolish boy who embarked on a foolish journey 30 years ago. Oh Lord thank you
for guiding me to the field of the farmer and thank you for the abundance of the seed which you have given Him
that He can give to me. Oh Lord, my soul thirsts for the farmer’s water.
Oh Lord have mercy on me. Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the
ages of ages. Amen.