When he walked into my office and said, “You need to help me write my life story,” I knew this was a “God-thing.” For a full week prior to his request, during my quiet times of contemplation and prayer, I felt strongly pressed to begin the writing I’ve known I was meant to do for most of my life. Several books had been rolling around in my mind for years, so I figured God was encouraging me to finally get started on one of those. But life was busy for me, a workaholic, and I was thoroughly enjoying my position on the faculty of the Bible college where my friend and I met.
As always with such promptings towards adding writing to my agenda, I initially pushed the notion aside and relegated it to my “some day” pile. This time, however, my spirit continually went back to the thought, each time with a greater sense of urgency. At the end of that long week of feeling almost nagged about “getting to it,” in walked my friend with his proposal.
Besides the whole “God thing” (as if that wasn’t enough), I was intrigued by the possibility of writing his story because I already knew things about my friend’s life that were fascinating. I also had an inkling there was much more to it that had not yet been revealed.
Despite his current middle class lifestyle, I knew he had once led a life that was well connected to people above that status. He had friends in professional sports, in the music industry, and in Hollywood. He once arranged for my family to get VIP passes to a movie opening because he knew the star of the film. We were actually going to meet that actor. My kids were thrilled because they had grown up watching this particular star’s television show.
When we arrived at the event, my friend showed the organizers his personal text from the star himself and we were ushered into place immediately. It was amusing to see the reaction on the face of the girl who had come to see why we were butting in line once she got a look at that text.
I saw hints that day of my friend’s “other life” even in the way he dressed for the occasion and the way he carried himself. He easily blended in with the elite crowd. It was a strong contrast to the humble demeanor he usually maintained on our small Midwestern college campus.
My friend did not stay for the event after getting us into the VIP area. This was puzzling to me as I figured he’d like to see his old friend. Later, after I learned his full story, I understood why he didn’t stay. Having escaped his former life, he is very careful not to get too close to the things that once drew him into it. He’s had enough of the glitz, glamour and prestige his former dealings brought to him. He now leads a much simpler life, and prefers to keep it that way. It also now makes sense that we had to say we knew “Shots” (my friend’s former street name) when we were able to shake the actor’s hand. The actor wouldn’t have known him by his current name.
The information I learned about my friend that day in my office shed light on all these mysteries for me. He told me he is currently living under the name given to him by the FBI when he entered the Federal Witness Protection Program. His testimony at a trial that brought down the criminal organization he was once part of is the reason for his new identity.
We will reveal his identity – well, identities, both past and present – in the book we are writing. Until that time, I will refer to him in all future posts as Newman, because he is indeed a new man. And just FYI, “Shots” is also a fictitious street name. His actual nickname is well recognized in his former circles, so it won’t be revealed until later either.
As I shared the concept and drafts of this book with a few close friends, I learned not everyone is able to overlook someone’s past, even when that person’s repentance and transformation is obvious. Some still want “justice” but forget about mercy. It’s no wonder that few will really reveal their hearts and their histories, especially to “church folk.” Maybe that’s why God prepared me to view this project as divinely inspired the week before Newman revealed to me the full nature of his past.
His is a story of true transformation and I am honored to help him tell it. I believe this book will be a “must read.” For now, though, it is a “must write.” I’ll take any prayers, good vibes, mojo or whatever you want to send my way to help me make sure this assignment stays on the front burner of my still busy life. After all, this is a “God-thing” and I probably should make it a priority.