In the early 80’s I read a book that intrigued me. It was an inside story of the Watergate scandal. It did not focus solely on the political saga that made a sitting President in the USA resign, a historic event in itself, it stoked the fire of world politics and social change in my then budding mind.
The Author, Charles “Chuck” Colson, described as the “master of dirty tricks”, and the “evil genius” of the Nixon administration, expressed in his book how God arrested him in the midst of his political career, which crumbled as he was climbing what he thought to be the ladder of ultimate success.
Prior to his trip to prison he had a ‘spiritual awakening’. He became a Christian, a Born-again Believer, and that according to him, was the beginning of his real purpose in life.
His critics vehemently countered that his post-scandal conversion was a ploy to get his sentence reduced. He spent seven months in prison for a criminal conviction related to actions that preceded the actual Watergate break-in.
After getting out, and for the next 35 years he proved his critics wrong by staying true to his new-found freedom and word. He resolutely reached out to a segment of people scorned by society just as he was. He poured his life into others through the organization he founded, the Prison Fellowship Ministries, wrote more than 20 books, a syndicated column, started a daily radio feature – BreakPoint, won the prestigious Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, and made a significant impact.
Many sources say, when he was released from prison, he had many offers to do other things that would have made him a lot of money, but he wanted to serve people who had been branded as tarnished in society,
No wonder he said going to prison a “great blessing”.
“Chuck” Colson died just this past Saturday April 21st at age 80. His life tells yet another story of redemption, a complete turn-around, and the usefulness of pain, shame, and embarrassment. Often this is the path that many people who have changed the world have trodden.
He recounted that, “Lying on the rotten floor of a cell, you know it’s not prosperity or pleasure that’s important, but the maturing of the soul.”
The maturing of the soul is the essential ingredient that precipitates change in oneself first, and then extends to the rest of the world. But this is a bitter and hard truth for many of us to swallow. We want to change the world but don’t want to pay that painful price of self-change.
Pressure, failure and embarrassment are essential foundational parts of the course in the school of human development and maturity. The graduate school of godly character and capacity is pain, sorrow, and stress.
The problem is that, this school has many no-shows and dropouts.
Mark Earley, the former Virginia Attorney General makes a good point when he said, “it wasn’t until he lost that power, what most people would call real `power,’ that Chuck began to make a real difference and exercise the only kind of influence that really matters.”
Colson captures it best as he wrote, “Who was I to moralize, to preach to others? I’d botched it, was one of those who helped bring on Watergate and was in prison to prove it. Yet maybe that very fact . . . could give me some insights that would help others.”
That was his path to freedom. . .
. . . the Freedom to significantly influence people in ways that mattered most!