“Two men look out from behind the same bars
One sees mud;
The other sees the stars”
Jeff grasped the cool metal bars of his cell window, and shook them with a rage full of pain deeper than he ever knew. The sky outside his cold, dank cell was grey and the heaviness of the darkness intruded upon his soul. Light had once shown from blue his eyes, but that light was now gone, and left his eyes looking grey. The ground outside was muddy from the rain that had been falling since his arrival, and scattered trash from his fellow inmates littered the grounds.
He was here because of what he had done. He had been desperate.
“No one will get hurt.” His friend had assured him as they made their plans.
Their plans were simple. They would rob a gas station. Jeff, would hold the cashier at gunpoint, but with an unloaded gun, and his friend would put the money in the bag, and then they make a run for it. His friend, had told him to pretend like he was going to shoot the gun, even to pull to trigger, but it was all just for scare, because as he reminded Jeff, there would be no bullets in the gun.
Things quickly got out of hand. In the rush of adrenaline coursing through his veins, he did pretend to shoot the gun. But no one had remembered to check and see if the gun was loaded. And it was.
He shook the bars of his cell again. Shook them for his stupidity for not checking the gun, and for his ignorance for thinking he could actually get away with robbing the gas station, that led to that fateful moment where he killed someone. He let out a yell, that through which any person with feelings could hear his pain and guilt.
Looking outside, his eyes came to rest on the muddy ground. He looked at the mud, that no doubt had once been rich reddish dirt, but now lay sodden and grey. That was all he was now. Mud. Dirty, filthy, disgusting mud. He, like the mud, would be looked at in disgust for the rest of his life.
“…one man sees mud…”
Another man was in the cell with Jeff. This man was grey-haired and had a hint of compassion and kindness in his eyes. He had been here much, much longer than Jeff. He had watched Jeff shake the bars, and listen to him yell.
No words had been spoken between them since Jeff’s arrival a few days ago. No words needed exchanging. He knew how Jeff felt…in a way. He knew he wasn’t like the other prisoner’s who felt no remorse at the thought of why there were here, and that he felt guilt and sorrow for what he had done. Whatever it had been.
This difference was, this old man’s pain wasn’t from killing someone. This man was innocent. He suffered from the guilt of knowing that his family had been murdered, and that he was still alive. He suffered from the indescribable anger of being wrongly accused and sitting in this cell year after year when he was innocent.
He breathed in a deep breath. It had taken him years to come to terms with his guilt, anger and sorrow. He had talked to God, when he had a family. In fact, he had rather liked to think that he and God were friends. Then he ended up here. And he didn’t talk to God for many years. In that time, his heart had become like stone. Then one night, he too had shaken the bars angrily and yelled all his anger out for the world to hear. But God had been merciful, and shown His love. Through the bars of his window, he had seen the stars. Really seen them.
He realized that if God were really there, and had really created everything, and he knew all the stars in the sky, surely God knew what was to be done with him. He suddenly felt so small and helpless, and in the moment he fell to the floor in adoration of God.
“…and the other sees the stars…”
The old man got up from his bed and cautiously walked over to Jeff. Jeff was staring out the window looking intently on the mud. He put his hand on Jeff’s shoulder. “You may think you’re mud, but God doesn’t”
“My people have been lost sheep; their sheppard’s have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their resting place…Yet their redeemer is strong; the LORD Almighty is His name. He will vigorously defend their cause…” Jeremiah 50:6 & 34