Today I attended the most beautiful wedding.
There was no white gown. No bridesmaids. No five-course meal. No extravagant flower arrangements.
Just a simple blue dress and a small white bouquet. An altar. A minister. A man and a woman.
He was an ex-convict who spent 23 year behind bars. Ran away from home at the age of 8. Started living on the streets with a bag lady who taught him how to dig in dumpsters for food, break into cars for shelter. It only went downhill from there. Drugs, stealing, vandalism. In prison he was nicknamed “Chaos”. Living up to that title got him solitary confinement for most of his days. His head swarmed with anger, pain, resentment, and apathy.
One day while pacing among the cinder blocks, he heard there was an open invite to a prison chaplin. He decided to go. Not to hear any message, but to get away from his 23 hours-a-day loneliness. The chaplin played his guitar. The song was “Purple Haze”. He wished he had some drugs with him so he could enjoy the experience more. At the end of the music, the chaplin came up to him and said, “You can be free right where you’re at.”
“Free” and “prison” and “solitary confinement” are words that don’t really go together. The chaplin’s proclamation puzzled him.
Days later he found a scrap of paper with a church address on it. He decided to write. Two weeks later and an elderly pastor walked through the prison gates. For the first time, he had a visitor. The pastor had no idea how his church’s address ended up within those prison walls. No one in his church had ever written to an inmate there. The pastor shared his faith. “Chaos” listened. And for the first time, his heart was pricked. Tears, confession, an invitation into his dark soul.
“Chaos” was no longer. He was free. Right where he was.
Prayers and the Word change everything. The prison guards whom he use to fight against started turning to him, asking for guidance. The old was made new, the broken restored.
8 years later and he was released from prison.
She, dark curls and a big, warm smile, was a lost wanderer with nowhere to go.
They soon met and realities set in. No jobs. No place to live. No money. They lived out of their car bouncing around through 17 states trying to find hope.
In the fall of 2010, if found them.
Their car finally broke down in the Asheville Walmart. There they lived for weeks. Then they came to New Life. They were welcomed. They were accepted for who they were. They were helped. They were loved.
A year passes and now they are living in an apartment, starting a new life together. The past is truly in the past.
And today they joined their lives together through the divine union of marriage. The ceremony was short, the decorations were simple, the hearts were humble. And it was the most beautiful wedding. Because in it, His grace, His forgiveness, His freedom outshone any love that a man and a woman can have for one another. And that was beautiful.
Want to hear the prisoner’s journey to freedom through his own words?