The Amazing Race

Recently, one of the inmates here on our prison yard has been in touch with a charity that is important to him. It helps disabled children, and those children are soon going to be running a 7K race to help raise money and awareness for their organization. My fellow inmate decided he wanted to organize a small 7K run here. His goal was to have it occur weeks before the one run by the charity so we could write about our experience and send it to them beforehand so they would know they had supporters, even here in prison. He presented the idea and immediately there were a few of us interested in participating.

Now, I know some people have a stereotype that everyone in prison works out. While there are some that do, most don’t. While I do some exercise, I am NOT a runner. That’s just not what I do, and interestingly, that seemed to be the case for most of those wanting to participate in this run. We had only one official training run before the day of the event.

On our track here, it takes 22 laps to run 7 kilometers. There were fifteen of us at the start and we all had different goals. Some people had goals of how fast they wanted to go and some just wanted to finish. My personal goal was to finish the run without stopping to walk, even if it meant going really slow. That morning, we had a brief word by our organizer about the purpose of our run. It was interesting to me to notice that there were inmates of all ages, ethnicity, religions, and reasons for being in prison. There was a nervous energy because this was out of our comfort zone to run like this, but we wanted to do it for the cause.

There are usually not more than a couple of solitary runners using the track at any one time so it created a little bit of a stir when one of the inmates yelled, “Go!” and fifteen of us started running. It surprised the guards and it took a few seconds for them to realize that we had no ill intentions! Inmates around the yard noticed what we were doing and started asking questions. Soon, it seemed like the whole yard knew that we were all running 22 laps as part of a charity run. Some inmates acted like fans and started asking us how many laps we had left and encouraged us to keep going.

We all ran at different paces. When I was at about the 15 lap mark, I felt like I was going to stop and walk a lap or so. There were others walking, and I knew I would still finish, but I would not accomplish my goal. Just as I was about to walk, one of the other runners passed me and said, “You’re doing great, don’t stop now!” It was just the motivation I needed and I never did stop to walk.

Some of the faster runners had started to finish their run, and when I got toward my last lap, I didn’t know if my legs could keep going. Then, just when my body was about to give out, one of the people who had already completed his run asked me how long I had to go. When I told him I was starting my last lap, he said that even though was finished, he’d join me. He stayed by my side, talking me through the last lap, encouraging me, and helping me to get it done. As I finished the race, I felt so good that I had finished and accomplished my goal. I knew that a big reason for my success was the help of others.

Soon after I finished, one racer who had two laps left decided to quit, saying he just couldn’t do it and he was done. The rest of us encouraged him, and after just a few seconds, he decided to finish. As he got to his last lap, I remembered what had helped me, and I and another participant who had finished jumped back in to run the last lap with our final finisher. It was as if having us by his side gave him new life. He ran with energy and was able to finish the race. Even though he had considered quitting, he was immediately grateful that he finished and that he had help to do it. All fifteen of us had completed the race.

I felt so good afterwards, and I know that part of that is because it was such a different experience than often happens here. This place is often negative and some bad things happen here. So to go through something like this was a huge lift. I thought about the fact that so many people on the outside think of prisoners negatively, and as a scourge on society. Then I realized that even though I am an inmate as well, I often fall into the easy habit of judging people in here, based on something I have heard about them or have seen them do.

This race was a big reminder to me of the divine potential of all of God’s children. No matter what we have done, who we are, or where we are, we all have the potential to change. We all have the potential to help others. It is inside each of us. What I saw during that race was goodness. It is so important to remember that even when I am down on myself for past mistakes, that goodness, that divine potential is there. And when I see others who are making mistakes, I need to remember that the same potential for change is there, and I need to treat them as such.

I guess I could say that this race is a little bit like life. In life, we have to do difficult things. We need to set positive goals and work towards them. We can receive help from the Holy Spirit and from those around us. When we feel like giving up, we must rely on the help available to us. And just as importantly, we can be the one to help others, and step in when they are about to give up. We can be the reason they make it.

Lie #10 – Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are Too Busy to be Involved in Most Aspects of My Life

I have felt divine intervention in many major aspects of my life.  I felt guided in decisions regarding family and career choices. I feel I have served in callings, including my mission location, that were truly inspired.  However, when it comes to the smaller details of my life, I felt that those were in my own hands. Not only did this lead to the pride described before which doesn’t acknowledge divine help, but it allowed me to justify events in my life as not mattering.  It also prevented me from seeing the importance of seeking the Lord’s will in many decisions.

Elder Ronald Rasband has taught the truth regarding this topic: “Our lives are like a chessboard, and the Lord moves us from one place to another—if we are responsive to spiritual promptings.  Looking back, we can see His hand in our lives.” Believing this lie made me not notice these spiritual promptings. Elder Rasband continues and teaches us that Christ is in the small details of our lives as well as the major milestones.  Even our trials are guided by Him and are for our good as taught in Doctrine and Covenants 122:7: ” . . . if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” 

Once I started becoming aware of this truth, I was able to identify the daily, if not hourly, interventions in my life.  Seeing that He cares for me that much and is that aware of my life, gives me new faith in the ability to seek His will and accept it, even if it goes against what I want or feel is best.  Realizing this truth helps me move toward being able to say and honestly feel the expression in Hymn #134 which says, “I believe in Christ, so come what may.” Their divine involvement in my life is just another evidence of the love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for us.

What are some ways you notice divine guidance in even the smaller aspects of day to day life?

Lie #9 – Having the Gospel Brings Peace

This may seem like a true statement, but once again, partial truths can be deceiving.  I often heard people going through trials which seemed huge to me talk about how they were able to receive peace from the gospel.  I never really felt that peace the way I thought I should. I even taught on my mission that if people heard the gospel, they would have a new peace come into their lives, even though I had not personally felt it.  Since being compelled to humility, I have changed the way that I live. Still far from perfect, but earnestly trying, I have felt the peace others have spoken of, even in the midst of a period of my life with many unknowns in the future.  I realized that the word that causes this to be a lie is “having”. For having the gospel can bring a certain level of peace, but living the gospel is what leads us to the comfort offered by the Holy Ghost.  Hymn #14 starts, “Sweet is the peace the gospel brings”, but it doesn’t stop there.  It completes that sentence with “to seeking minds and true.” I need to do my part and not just have the gospel in order to experience this peace.

Several months after I was incarcerated, fires raged through our area and demolished entire neighborhoods.  Over 5,000 homes were destroyed. Due to my limited contact with the outside world, I did not know if my house had been burned.  I knew my family had been evacuated and was given information both that my neighborhood had been burned and that it had not been burned.  For nearly two days, I didn’t know. Yet I felt an incredible peace. I didn’t worry at all about our things and knew that as long as my family was ok, we would be fine.  I didn’t even feel stress about not knowing. This experience showed me the peace I had heard others describe and made me realize that living the gospel truly does bring sweet peace.

What differences have you noticed in your life between simply having the gospel and living the gospel? I look forward to reading your experiences.