An absolutely wonderful conversion story from Bring Us to Life Blog.
“At the age of 18, I was a high school dropout who robbed three banks, and was on his way to maximum-security prison. There didn’t seem to be much reason for hope. But ten years later, by excelling in academics after my release, I would begin my doctoral studies in political philosophy at the University of Michigan. On the surface it appeared like I was living the American dream: I had a good comeback story, a bright future, I was young and physically fit and I always had a girlfriend. By our cultures’ standards, I should have been happy. But I only loved and trusted myself. There was no room for God in my heart and in my understanding of the world, and so I was slowly dying from the inside out. And I knew it. Then one day in April 2007, while doing yard work, God reached down and reversed the course of my life with the resounding intervention: “I love you and I forgive you”—followed by an infusion of his divine love. From that moment on I set aside everything I thought I knew, and pursued this love. I was surprised to soon find that the source of this love was Jesus Christ, and that my home was the Roman Catholic Church.
“An Escape Into Prison
“So let’s start with the obvious question: How does an eighteen year-old come to the shocking decision to rob banks? For it was a real decision, a decisive break that I carefully considered and turned over in my mind for months. So unlike many robbers, my crime was not a crime of opportunity or an immediate response to the ache of a drug addiction. But I suppose I robbed banks for the same reason that many poor souls turn to drugs or suicide: because I was without hope, saw no path forward and needed out. My mind had become uninhabitable to myself as I was deeply estranged from myself, from others and from God. At that time I thought I was at an impasse: I dropped out of high school after being suspended seven times my senior year, and I’d just quit my job because I couldn’t manage my anxiety amongst the ups and downs. I thought that robbing banks and the prospect of prison would be my escape—for I assumed that I would get caught since I knew that nine out of ten bank robbers end up in prison. I know it sounds crazy—a wild paradox—but I was making an escape into prison as a last attempt to salvage myself. And believe it or not it actually worked and exceeded all of my desperate hopes. But we’ll get to that later…
“Before I robbed banks I’d been committing an escalating series of petty crimes: vandalism, fistfights, and large and small thefts. I’d prowl about at all hours of the night with like-minded friends and seize opportunities to destroy or steal property from anonymous strangers. It was a very strange thing to do night after night, and so what was I up to here? On the one hand, the thrill of danger briefly made me feel alive and in control, and I knew that robbing banks would just ratchet up the thrill. On the other hand, I was striking out at the very anonymity of strangers—the fact that I was alienated and disassociated from others. They had their lives that were separate and totally unknown and unconnected to me, and I hated that separation. This view had its origins in the troubles in my home. When I was a child my home was marked by conflict and instability, and I felt isolated in my fear and helplessness. I always fantasized about escaping into the woods to live alone, but I knew that was impractical. And so I wanted someone to intervene—some neighbor or stranger—but no one ever did. And so I viewed that separation as a threat, a betrayal, a sign that notions of justice were a fiction since real justice depends upon the fact of interconnected lives—a genuine community. Since I had no hope that life was ultimately just, and found no consolation from others, I gradually retreated into myself as into a fortress.”