An eternal moment with Tom
I met Tom in my normal round of walking around the prison, talking to anyone who wanted to talk. Like many men in the Remand Centre, Tom had questions about God. Where was He? Does he care about me? Will He help me get a better hearing in court? They were general questions.
Questions I often heard and often sought to give meaningful answers to.
The next time I met Tom he had been speaking to the Imam about the same questions. He liked what the Imam had told him and was considering becoming a Muslim. I suggested to Tom that this would be a big decision that he should think very carefully about before he made any commitment.
It was at this point that what Tom said next really surprised me and held me silent while I processed his story. Now in his mid-thirties, Tom was in prison on drug related charges. He had developed a drug habit in his late teens. After a couple of years following this hard lifestyle Tom screamed out to God, “If you’re there, why don’t you help me?!” At that point he felt a hand on his shoulder but when he turned around he saw no one there.
Tom didn’t think much more about this until the following morning. After waking up he expected to feel the downer of the morning after. Instead, Tom still felt elated. He put this down to what he thought must have been the good quality of the drugs he had taken the night before. He thought he was still high.
Surprisingly for him, the “high” continued. As Tom reflected on this he figured that God must have answered his scream for help and that the hand on his shoulder must have been the hand of God. Armed with this thought Tom started going to his local church. He committed his life to following Jesus.
Life got very much better for Tom. He became a professional sportsman and had many trips overseas for competition. For ten years Tom lived this life, following Jesus and enjoying a successful career. At this point Tom decided that, because things were going so well for him, a shot of cocaine wouldn’t harm him. That decision started the fast spiral down and back into a life of addiction and crime. Tom was saying to me that this is why he thought it would be a good idea to try Islam.
Time was short. The inmates were being locked in for the night and I didn’t know when I’d get another opportunity to speak with Tom. And so in my stunned silence I said, “Tom, this is an eternal moment. Your decision here will have eternal consequences. You called out to God once and He helped you. You spent ten years following Jesus. Now you're in trouble again. You need to turn back to this God, not go searching for some other god.”
With that, a prison officer intervened and locked Tom in his cell. The following day Tom was transferred and I haven’t seen since since.
Unlike most of the stories I write about, this one doesn’t have a happy ending. It doesn’t even have an ending. It does have eternal significance and one day I will find out.
In the mean time I continue to pray for Tom.