I am Broken Inside
"I am broken inside," he said with tears in his eyes. "Outside I look fine, but inside I'm a mess." Here stood this strong man in stature doing what all the prison rule books tell you not to do - he was breaking down in front of other prisoners. But that's what happens when God touches your heart.
These were the words on a letter I received from another man in prison named JP detailing this story to me. He shared with me how God began to give him a word for this man that was getting ready to get transferred to another prison.
To be honest, I wasn't that fond of him, but God told me to get up and give him this word now while there's still time before he leaves out.
The man was sitting at the table with other men. I walked up to him and said, "The Holy Spirit has been prompting me to tell you this for over a week. He said to honor Him in the little, private areas in your life that you think nobody sees or cares about and in return God will honor and reward you in the major areas of your life openly for all to see.
Even when you get to the new prison and nobody knows you, you may get a job that you don't like. Let's say it's scrubbing the toilets. God wants you to scrub those toilets, each seat as if Christ Himself were going to sit there. You won't be scrubbing those toilets for a bunch of inmates, nor to impress the correctional officer or staff person who gave you the job.
You truly are a man of God and we are to perform our tasks for His glory first and foremost. I don't know what that means to you personally, but God told me to tell you that."
As the man stared at me intently, everyone got quiet waiting for his response. Then after a few more moments of silence his eyes began to water.
"Thank you man. All this week I had been waiting to hear a word from God before I left, but I wasn't getting it. I prayed and asked God. Then I begged God to give me a revelation word before I went to the new place. I was talking to everybody - the chaplains, our discipleship leader...but nobody had a word from God for me. I was really becoming disappointed. I was like 'dang God I am asking you for a word of knowledge and you are not responding! Is that how you're going to do me?'
Then, just when I think I'll be leaving here empty with no word God sends you to me. About a month ago someone pulled me to the side and complained to me. He said, 'I see you doing your job cleaning the microwave and stuff, but when you call yourself finished it's still kind of dirty. You don't put much effort into it.
You say you're a Christian right? Well, I don't believe in Christianity, but if you say you do shouldn't you be doing a better job than what you do? Look at this (pointing to the inside of the microwave), there are still food particles in here. Every morning when I come in here to heat up my coffee after you're done cleaning the microwave there are still food particles and stains.
You do a good job of making it look clean from the outside, but the inside is still dirty.' He was right. I really didn't care one way or another. I was frustrated all the time because my wife is about to divorce me. No one sends me money anymore. I don't hear from my kids anymore. Man, I'm a mess inside.
People see me leading in the worship services, working out, getting my body together, but no one sees how broken I am on the inside. No one except God."
We may put on a show for other people, but God sees our mess inside.
Later that week I had conversations with four other men that solidified that message to me - "I'm broken inside", and I began to think about how many broken people we pass by every day.
The first was a man who had previously been in my class I teach in prison. It was his fifth time being in prison. He was in his mid 40's and had never held a legal job. When he got out I connected him with someone who helped him develop a resume and transfer his "street skills" to "professional skills". Glad to say he ended up getting a legal job and started making some really good money.
He's been out for a couple of years and has been doing well, but something in my spirit said to call and check on him. I asked how he was doing and he said, "Most of it is good."
"Well, tell me about the part that's not good," I said. From there he began to vent. His 13-year-old brother whom his mother had adopted from foster care had been stealing from him, his mother and anyone else he could get something from.
"He's racked up thousands of dollars on her credit card and when you confront him he acts like he don't even care," he said. "I told him I didn't let nobody steal from me in prison and I'm not about to get out and let some 13 year-old boy steal from me. I told my mom he needs to go to jail, but she won't do nothing. I told her if she don't do something I'm gonna handle it. He ain't gonna steal from me no more. I'm gonna put my hands on him!"
I sympathized with his anger, but warned him. "You can't make your mom do something and if she chooses not to make him deal with the consequences you have to accept that. If you put your hands on him and the police get involved you're the one with the five offense prison record. You're the one that will go back to prison. This is the enemy trying to set you up to steal your life from you."
His anger kept rising. "Well, why would my mom keep putting me in this position? She's basically saying f*ck you to me and don't care that I go back to prison. And if that's the case then I'm cutting her off and I'm going to treat her and talk to her like I would somebody on the street."
I tried to explain to him that I didn't think that's what his mom was doing. "I imagine she loves him just like she loves you and she doesn't want to see another one of her sons go to jail."
And that's when the rest of the story came out. Every interaction I had ever had with him he had always been nothing but respectful to me, always referring to me as "Miss Busby". But, I had noticed a pattern with him where it seemed he had a great disrespect for women and his anger towards his mother took me a bit by surprise, but after listening for a bit I began to understand where this underlying anger was coming from.
"My dad used to tie me up by my ankles, hang me from the ceiling and beat me like a slave and she never did nothing about it. And to this day she acts like she don't remember. That's what I ended up going to prison for the first time. I shot my dad when I was 20. We got into an altercation. He pulled a gun on me and I shot him."
He went on to tell me that his father ended up killing himself with a gun years later. His father had two brothers that also committed suicide by shooting themselves. Six months prior I had called him about a vision I had of him getting shot and killed. I told him I felt it was a warning from God telling him not to go back to his old ways or he would die. He didn't reject what I was saying.
When I shared this vision with him at the time I had no idea the history of deaths by guns in his family. I went on to pray with him and tell him that he had to forgive his mother and father for hurting him. He had to let that anger go, otherwise, his anger would end up killing him like it did his father and his two uncles.
The second man I talked to was in his 30's and he reached out to me after seeing the book I wrote. I spent two hours listening to this man I had never met share his heart with me and confess some of his darkest moments - an unfaithful wife, an estranged relationship with his father and at times suicidal thoughts.
After listening to him I gathered he was a very talented and creative individual who had a kind heart to help people. I assured him he wasn't bi-polar, crazy, unstable or any other title people wanted to label him with. He was simply hurt, broken and looking for purpose in life. He had a gift and didn't currently have a place to put it, which was causing him frustration and confusion.
I asked if I could pray for him. He said yes and graciously thanked me for my time. Before departing I encouraged him to pursue what was in his heart regardless of how many people misunderstood him or thought he was crazy. I told him the reason he was going through this roller coaster of emotions was because he had a kind heart and he had been hurt and it's okay to feel those emotions. It doesn't mean your bi-polar. It means your human.
But now it was time to find a way past those emotions of hurt and the best way to do that was to use his gifts to help other people out of their brokenness.
The third man I talked to was in his 50's and is going through an identity crisis through a series of financial hardships and losses. We got on the topic of relationships and fatherhood. His father abandoned him when he was born and to this day has never met him. As a result, he dealt with a lot of anger and identity issues growing up.
"You know, people tell you to just get over it, but not everybody deals with stuff the same way. I'm fifty and I've still got father issues. It affects how I see God. Is He really good? Do I have to earn His approval?"
The fourth conversation came from another letter I received from a man named Williams in prison.
"I broke my leg and my hand. I've been in so much pain I don't know what to do. I also lost someone really special to me. The only thing is I don't have anyone to talk to about it. I don't even know what I'll say to them if I did. I don't think people even care what other people go through if they don't have anything to do with it."
As more and more families fall apart and relationships are fragmented we find more and more people who look good on the outside, but inside they're a mess. They're broken with no one to talk to, no one to listen.
We may not always have all the solutions to someone's problems or a quick fix, but sometimes the greatest gift we can give to someone is to listen to them share their pain, to let them know we care, and step out of our comfort zone and speak a word from God into their hearts.
You never know, you might be the glue that helps to repair someone's broken heart. I plan to write Williams back and let him know that I care. Never forget, your voice can make a difference in someone's life. You matter.