Today a friend of mine posted something about the West Memphis 3 trial. Immediately my mind went back to 1994 when it all went down. If you're unfamiliar with the story or newer to the area, it was quite a memorable event in this place. Three young teenagers convicted and sentenced to prison for a brutal murder. Whether they were guilty or not... the parents of the deceased needed someone to blame, the world needed someone judge, and the state needed someone to convict. It seems as though everyone had a strong opinion on what they thought, but the truth of the matter was no one REALLY knew what happened other than God and the ones that committed the crime.
Now... I'm not saying they are innocent or guilty. I'm just wondering if that's the REAL issue at stake here. When I heard that the WM3 (now grown adults) were being released from the courthouse in my hometown this morning, the journalist in me could NOT stay away from the action. When I arrived, I noticed many news vehicles surrounding the courthouse and police men galore! What was meant to be a peaceful little release party, suddenly turned into a pretty big ordeal with more attention that anticipated. Although there were a lot of people, it was strangely quiet. Everyone was standing still.... waiting. Many of them have been following this for years. I talked to a some who knew the boys, some who have researched this to death, and others who were just very interested in seeing justice served. To most of them justice was getting to see these innocent 3 released from being in prison almost 18 years for a crime they did not commit. We stood still quietly whispering among ourselves watching the doors for movement. About 30 minutes after I'd arrived the WM3 were officially released on probation.... they were finally free.
All day long my heart has been churning over this strange occurrence. On one hand, if the 3 are innocent... I weep over those lost years for them separated from loved ones, kept from the freedom to live life. On the other hand if they are guilty... I don't know... I still am saddened by the loss of life either way. Since the beginning of "the fall" in genesis we have lived in a world which acquired an atonement for sin. In the old testament animals were sacrificed. But in the new testament something happened. An innocent man took the blame and paid the price for ALL of us for the rest of time because of His love. When we see and understand what He really did for us we are overwhelmed by His love, captured by His story, and changed forever. So, no matter what REALLY happened that day in West Memphis back in 1994... my heart hurts. My heart aches for the pain and suffering in the world, my heart aches for the victims and victimizers, my heart aches for the hate, death, anger, vengeance, and injustice. We have an enemy who loves the stuff... and a God who sent His son to die and rise again to defeat that enemy with His love and win the worlds heart back.
Tonight as I was again researching the story I stumbled upon something that really hit me hard to the core.
Mark Byers, who's son was a victim of the West Memphis three killings, has supported the release of Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols, and Jason Baldwin. "I want justice and I wanted the three of them to be free, and I have no hard feelings against the three. I have love and empathy and sympathy for the family, who I've made amends to. I'm looking for them today just to hug them. To let them know they have their child back. Maybe I can't have my child back, but they're going to get theirs," said Byers. "I think it's a terrible crime to be put in prison for a crime you didn't do, and you have to admit to a crime you didn't do on a plea bargain to get out of prison."
As I was reading this I had another thought. Jesus, who was completely innocent, died so that we would have freedom. How do we think God feels when we step back into the very prison He released us from? He wants us to be completely free. He wants us to have our childhood back. He's pleaded our case and won, now we must choose to step into the freedom that he "freely" gives or choose to walk with shackles keeping us from the life He desires for us to live in and with Him on this earth. If your life reflects that of the Father, others will see something in you that they want. They'll be drawn to the freedom you have, and all you have to do is point them to the truth and He'll do the rest. He's given you one life, now what are you gonna do with it? They may have been innocent boys in a physical prison for 18 years, but how long have we been in prison ourselves with the very keys to the door of our freedom?
B90: (Isaiah 26- 37:38) "Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him." Is 30:18
My prayer is that these boys turned men will have many divine appointments "outside the walls" with people who follow Jesus and can show them forgiveness, grace, love, kindness, and joy. I pray they will all come to know the GREATER freedom they can have in personally knowing their Creator. I pray that the physical symbol of their freedom today will release spiritual freedom across the state, the US and the world. Truth is- we all deserve death. But He paid the ultimate price so we didn't have to. Amen? Let's live it!
I'm reminded of one of my favorite childhood songs....
I've got a river of life flowing out of me
Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see
Opens prison doors, sets the captives free
I've got a river of live flowing out of me!