This is going to sound crazy. Really crazy. But it’s true…so that should surpass all understanding, right? This spring, I had the opportunity to sub for a fellow instructor at the college who was out due to illness. The subbing wasn’t difficult, all I had to do was take attendance, and sit back and relax because they had a guest speaker. Her name was Mandy.
She is a former bank robber. And yes, she told us all the details of the heist – in a very authentic way. She described her fears, her views of friendship, and in the most transparent way – we heard ALL the details of the robbery. Guess what? It’s nothing like the movies.
Her story was so riveting that I was mesmerized. And because I’m all about the spoilers I just need to tell you this right now…God was at the center of her story. The bank robber story. Who would have thought it?
God will never leave us nor abandon us, even when a bank robbery is involved. And when God is involved, there’s always a greater lesson for all of us.
Mandy’s story was inspirational…and that’s probably why my colleauge had her come speak to the class of unsuspecting college students. After hearing her story, I immediately decided I wanted to write about her, because you need to hear her story too. Since the story involves crime and such I thought I should tell you that the bank robbery occured about 10 years ago when Mandy was a teenager and she has repaid that debt to society. As I’m sure you can imagine, her life has had a lot of twists and turns.
Here’s what I learned that fateful night from Mandy a few months ago that I still carry with me today:
We can be someone’s biggest bully by not understanding who they are.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding.
Life is about relationships and people and community. Everyone has a story and a purpose. If we don’t understand that the differences in our purpose are ok…actually more than ok…then we are bullying them. As well all know…bullying is not cool.
Everyone needs a Cathy. If you don’t have a Cathy, be a Cathy.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
When Mandy finished her time in the criminal just system, she was trying to figure out how to put her life back together. She eventually found her way to a local community college and then started volunteering at a community center. One of the employees at the community center was named Cathy, and she saw a future of hope and redemption in Mandy. She gave Mandy strength when she needed it most, and now that her life has changed for the better, she offers that hope and strength to others who may need it.
You can’t honor your tradition if you are cutting people out of your life.
Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.
1 Corinthians 11:2
This one struck home with me. Mandy was embarrassed at the choices she had made and knew that she disappointed her family – especially her grandparents. Even after her jail sentence was over and she was trying to establish a new life, she avoided them. In that avoidance though, she missed creating memories, learning about her family history, and receiving the loving care and guidance only a grandparent could provide. Like many of us, tradition is important in Mandy’s family and to her Native American culture. When she was avoiding spending time with her grandparents, she wasn’t honoring her tradition.
The reality is that the criminal justice system is not the most helpful system. However, we serve a God who prevails over everything.
I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
As much as I’d like to believe that justice and fairness prevail in our country, it doesn’t. Mandy learned it when she was dealing with her probation sentence and we see it everyday on telelvision and our society. Racial divide, cultural clashes, and blatant prejudice plague our criminal justice sentence today more than ever. If you don’t believe me, read this and say their names.
There’s no such thing as a timeline when it comes to living your destiny.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Mandy thought that she had to live her life on a schedule. When she didn’t accomplish the things she thought she should have accomplished, she thought she was a failure. At times, I have felt the same way and I haven’t robbed a bank. If we are living the destiny that God has created for us, we need to put our clocks, our timelines, and our schedules away.
Have you ever found inspiration from a surprising source?