Filling the God Sized hole
From the time of my cognitive awareness to the age of thirty, I went through life with a hole inside of me. I had no faith in God, no self-esteem and no meaningful direction in my life. My insecurities and lack of faith were what dug that hole inside of me, leaving room for pain and degradation. I went through my teens with a chip on my shoulder. I got into fights, rebelled against authority, lived fast and took chances, and I eased the pain of it all by using drugs and alcohol. It did not take long for me to learn that drugs and alcohol cost a great deal of money.
I came to the conclusion that I wanted to be on the receiving end of it all; hence, I became driven to succeed, advance and achieve in what would be my chosen career path, sales and distribution of controlled substances. I would not have been able to explain to someone what being comfortable in my own skin was like; I had no idea because I never really had been content with being me. I lived exactly thirty years, five months and three days of not knowing how to love myself until on the morning of February 3, 2005, life, as I had known it would take on a new meaning, and for the first time, a purpose.
I had neglected to adhere to the terms and conditions of probation that I had been placed under stemming from a driving while intoxicated offense I was convicted of in 2002, and so a warrant was issued for my arrest. On the twenty fourth day of January, 2005, two warrant deputy’s dressed in brown appeared at my doorstep, arrested me and took me in to the Hennepin County Jail in downtown Minneapolis. I quickly learned from the admissions officer that I was being held on a body-only warrant, which essentially means I was not getting released until I met with my sentencing judge. So there I was, angry, disheartened, empty and alone. I can look back now and say the feeling I was experiencing would best be described as spiritually bankrupt; however, at that time I had no idea what that really meant.
The aesthetic nature of correctional facilities is very dull to say the least. The holding area is the first place you are taken to. I walked in, staring at the speckled tan linoleum floor, which is similar to what you might see in a hospital or public school. I was told to take a seat on one of the fiberglass bucket-style seats that were mounted to steel runners about eight to each row. I watched as the continuously running orientation video ran over and over again until I finally heard the guard yell ” Fredrickson! Time to get printed and then your phone call”.
The walls were glossy beige painted over cinder block, which made the fluorescent lights shine off them like mirror images. The doors and handrails were all a uniform industrial green and all the tables and plumbing fixtures are a brightly polished stainless steel. The interior design does not differ between the admission/holding area and the living units; in fact it remains consistent throughout the facility. The finger printing process is now inkless; you just roll your fingers over a touch pad, the guard presses enter, and you’re finished. I was then given an opportunity to make a phone call which I declined; I knew I wasn’t going anywhere, so I said to the guard sarcastically,
“what’s the point?”
I was then placed back in the holding cell, which is also known as the “fishbowl” because windows surround it. It was not long before the guard returned and said ” Fredrickson! You’re going upstairs.” Before you can go up to the living units, they bring you to the change room where you put your clothes and belongings in a property bag and put on the jail-issued uniforms known as the “County orange”. I so wanted this nightmare to end, so I quickly changed, followed the guard to the elevator and headed upstairs to the living unit and my room. Most people who know me well would say I am one of the toughest men they have ever known; however, on this night the toughness lost out to despair; although this was not my first time in jail, I fell asleep with tears rolling down my cheeks. I suppose even the toughest guys can hurt too, and hurting I was.
The first week inside was pretty much a blur, which I attribute to the detoxification from years of drug abuse. I do not have much recollection of that time. I mostly remember sleeping, using the phone, roll calls and meals. It was February 2nd now and my head was clearing up. I was ready to face the world, which was good because otherwise I may have secluded myself in my cell, and I would have never had my life- changing experience. I went to bed that night more sober than I had probably been in ten years. I had no idea that when I woke up the next morning it would not only be the beginning of a new day for me, but the beginning of a new life.
The lights rose from dim to full power and the lock on the cell door clicked, which meant it was time for roll call and morning meal. I quickly rose to my feet, made my bed and stepped out into the living unit, just to the side of my door. The C.O. (Correctional Officer) began his routine walk around the unit, clip board in hand, face down, pausing only for a moment to scribble a mark on his sheet after each inmate spoke out their first and last name. I had noticed from the previous days that some the of other C.O.’s would switch the point from which they would start taking roll call, which would give different areas of the living unit a shot at being first through the chow line in the morning, but not this guy. No, this was Officer Herrera; he did things exactly by the book, which meant he started from the lowest numbered cell to the highest. When Herrera was on duty, I was the last through the line for my danish, fruit and pint of milk.
As I mentioned earlier, the aesthetic features of a correctional facility are pretty consistent throughout, the layout would be the only thing that really differs. The living units are rectangular, approximately 100′ by 75′. There are 35 cell units located on both of the long walls in two tiers with the lowest numbered cells on the first floor and the highest on the second. The command center, where the C.O’s were stationed, is located at the front of the unit along with the phones and showers. The tables, televisions and books were at the opposite end of the unit. My cell was just over the control center on the front end of the unit; I had seen the inside of this jail more than once, but the view this morning was different from before, unlike anything I had ever seen before.
It always seems gloomy in County even though there is more than sufficient lighting. As I gazed out into the main room, I noticed something felt out of place, but I couldn’t quite put a finger on what or where it was. It was one of those things where something just didn’t seem normal to me, but to everyone else, it was status quo. I looked from side to side through the dreary control room, and there it was. In the middle of that room I saw what seemed like a beaming ray of sunshine cutting through thunderheads raging over a stormy sea. The light was calling me as if I were a ship and the rays were a lighthouse guiding me in to what would be my refuge and deliverance. In reality, my refuge would be the stainless steel table where two men sat conversing with smiles, laughter and a state of peace I could neither understand or accept; after all, had they not been informed we were all in jail? I could resist no longer. I had to know what it was they had that was making them so cheery. When I reached the table, one of the men (whom I would later learn was named Clarence) turned and looked at me and as we met each other’s eyes I said,
“Who blew the sunshine up your #@$? You two aware we are in jail?”
“We are reading the word of God”, Clarence responded; and at that point the other man, Keith, said
“Would you like to join us in our reading?”
My mind screamed “No!” but my heart insisted, “Yes!”
I stood there in front of the two men that I would soon call my Brothers for what seemed to me like a minute or more just staring back, glancing back and forth at them. To someone just observing from a distance, the scene would not have looked right. Clarence and Keith are both African Americans in their early forties and I was a thirty-year-old “White-boy”. Under normal circumstances, this would look like a prelude to disaster. Fortunately, God’s hand was in this. Clarence and Keith sat there in front of me wearing their patient smiles as my mind tried to out duel my heart and my feet, but it was no use; before I knew what was happening, I was seated at the table, and somehow a Bible appeared right in front of my seat. I spent the rest of that day reading and discussing stories and passages with my two new Brothers in Christ. Clarence and Keith explained to me how the passage in 2Corinthians 5:17 promises that my mistakes did not condemn me.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (N.A.S.B Tyndale 1979).
This was a revelation to me; I had never considered that I could ever come back from the life I created.
The following ten days were spent fellowshipping with Clarence and Keith. Each morning we would take turns leading the study topic and discussion. It seemed like in some way I was experiencing the supernatural through my study of the Bible. Things were being revealed to me at an accelerated pace; in fact, there were several occasions in which Keith and Clarence had told me that they found my interpretations very edifying, which really hit home with me because I viewed them as mentors. Clarence had attended seminary school before battling with addiction to crack; Keith was a real estate developer who had been brought in over a dispute with his taxes. Yeah, they were in jail, but they were holding up all right. They asked the Lord for forgiveness and that gave them the contentment of knowing they had been justified before the Father. In this case “justified” means ” just-as-if ““I’d ” never sinned. This cleansing was available to all who would believe in the Lord; however, one’s belief is demonstrated through one’s repentance, which means to acknowledge and turn from one’s sin. So in essence, all I had to do was stop living the life I was leading which had me to where I was and ask God to forgive me. That decision for me was the proverbial “No Brainer”. My newfound faith would soon be tested, but the promises therein would also come to fruition.
It was roughly the 17th morning of being incarcerated. I was woken up by the Spanish accented harsh and unfriendly voice of C.O. Herrera coming over the loudspeaker: “Roll call in five minutes! Have your beds made, be dressed and ready by your doors by the time I get there, or you will wish you had!” I heard the door lock release and I quickly rose to my feet, brushed my teeth and spread my blanket over the cold concrete slab I slept on. As Herrera made his way around the tier, I watched his every move. He stared at each inmate with his beady little black eyes. He wore condemning a smirk pulled to one side of his acne-scarred face. It was almost as though each one us had carried out some kind of traumatic injustice upon him personally and now he was going to make us all pay for what we had done. While he was making his way around the tiers, there were two younger guys, maybe in their early twenties, who were chatting back and forth. Herrera heard the chatter; only he thought it was I who was doing the talking! Herrera pointed at me and shouted ” You! Mr. Fredrickson! To your cell now! You are placed on 24 hour lock down for talking during roll call!” I tried to argue with him, but it was useless. Herrera was convinced it was I doing the talking and that was that. At first I was really upset, but I remembered I had a new friend. My escape was lying on my shelf in the form of a Bible. I started reading and I came upon a verse in the Old Testament, Isaiah 53:5 ” But He was pierced through for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by his scourging we are healed” (N.A.S.B. Zondervan 1991). My eyes began to well up as I realized that I was not the first to be falsely accused; the Lord had been, too. The only difference was that the Lord was crucified. I suddenly was able to find peace in my unwarranted lock down.
There I sat in a six by eight room, yet I did not feel alone. I knew the Lord was right there beside me. Having already determined I could not go on living my life as I had been, I decided the time was right to do something about it. I knelt down on my hands and knees and I began to cry. My whole life started flashing through my head, all the good and all the bad. I said to the Lord, “Lord, I want to change. If you will forgive me and fill the hole that will be left from leaving everything I know, the money, power, control, my fiancé, friends and the addiction. Lord if you will do that, I will give you the rest of my life to use you as you would, to do your will.” I cannot explain to you in words the warmth that fell over me. Tears ran like raging rivers down my face, but they were no longer tears of sadness, they were tears of joy!
I eventually had my day in court and the sentencing judge ruled that I was to execute the remaining 101 days I had left on my sentence. I was shipped out to the Hennepin county workhouse in Plymouth for the remainder of my time. I used this as an opportunity to study the Bible, pray, and develop a close personal relationship with God. I realized that witnessing to other inmates made me feel like I had a purpose. It became evident to me that my end of the deal I made with God in my cell that morning was to let God use me to help others get free from addictions and find contentment in life. I describe this as ” filling their God-sized hole”.
I was released from the Hennepin County Workhouse May 5th, 2005 and it’s been quite a journey from then to now. Through my participation in Church and 12 step recovery programs I met quite a few people. I quickly developed a reputation as someone with a real fire, call and anointing. I had prayed the prayer of Jabez located in the first book of Chronicles 4:10 ” And Jabez had called upon the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldst bless me indeed and enlarge my boarder, and that thy hand might be with me, and that it may keep me from evil that I may not cause pain” (N.R.S.V. Tyndale, 1991). Like Jabez, the Lord granted me my request. A friend from one of my groups introduced me to a very wealthy entrepreneur from Hawaii who had a son struggling with addiction to alcohol.
I was offered a job by this man to move in, mentor and monitor the activities of his son who was living here in Minneapolis on the top floor of the Calhoun beach club. I agreed to take the job because I felt that the Lord’s hand was in it. I moved in and things went well for about a week and then the young man I was mentoring fell right back into his old behavior patterns. He and I were butting heads on a regular basis and I told his father things were not working out. The young man’s father asked me if I would interested in going to the South Pacific Kingdom of Tonga to do missionary work and obtain theological training at the Youth With A Mission school located in the capital city of Nuku Alofa’. He promised to pay for my schooling, support my ministry and hook me up with some friends of his on the island who would be providing me with food and lodging. I immediately accepted the offer as I viewed this as an answer to my ” Prayer of Jabez”, and it was; it just would not come in the package it appeared to be.
It was approximately one week from the time I was made the offer and I was already on a plane to Tonga, which is roughly 13500 miles from Minneapolis. My travel time was around 23 hours and took me through Los Angeles, Xadi Fiji, Suva Fiji and then finally to Fuo Uamoto, Kingdom of Tonga. I lumbered off the plane, tired and exhausted. I looked around the airport and realized there was no one there to pick me up. I could not believe it, but it was true; I was on my own and there would be no help coming from the guy who sent me. I could start another chapter explaining more of this but I am going to choose not to. I plan on writing a book about my life someday, so if someone were dying to know more, I suggest you buy a copy of my book once it is published.
I met people on my own out there and I found a church. Through my willingness to help in anyway I could I was able to develop a real good relationship with my pastor, Randy Carlson, who was an Assembly of God missionary from the United States. Randy heard my story and was moved very deeply. Randy and his congregation offered to send me to the A.G. Tonga School of Theology and pay my tuition. I was given a room in the church to stay in on the weekends and during the week I stayed out in the school dorm with the Tongans. I was the first Palangi (white man) in the 25-year history of the school! I worked very hard on my studies and daily work detail, which immediately gained me the respect of my fellow students.
I was elected Class Captain and Missions Director for the school after the first term. Along the way I met a businessman from New Zealand by the name of Rodd Jacques. Rodd has been a Christian his entire life and he was really moved by my testimony. Rodd and his family invited me into their home in Auckland, New Zealand during my school breaks. I was able to work at his warehouse so I was able to go back to Tonga with some extra money. I networked with many different people in New Zealand, gave my testimony to at-risk youth and spent an evening at Teen Challenge, New Zealand. I flew back and forth to New Zealand four times spending a total of 31 days, just another blessing the Lord sent my way.
The most important aspect of my travels is the fact that I remained sober the whole time. Integrity can be thought of as doing the right thing even when no one is looking and I proved to myself that I could do just that. When I look back at the series of events leading back to early 2005, it amazes me. One thing I tell people today is that God provides in and through one’s faithfulness. I was provided deliverance from a deadly lifestyle because I stepped out in faith and did the work he had set before me. Throughout that whole year I never needed for anything. The Lord, through my Brothers and Sisters in Christ, provided it all.
It’s been over two years since I have used drugs or alcohol and I have no desire to. Through my faithfulness and hard work, I have been delivered from my obsessions. I returned to the United States on December 23rd, 2006. Since I hit my knees in that cell I have prayed, fasted with and given my testimony to people in two countries and one Kingdom in two different hemispheres on opposing sides of the equator.
Today I am working as a Chemical Dependency Tech at Missions Detox Center in Plymouth, Minnesota and I am attending college at Minneapolis Community and Technical College in Minneapolis to become a licensed Addiction Counselor. I also have my own ministry in which I mentor those who are struggling with drug and alcohol use. I have appropriately named it “God Sized Hole Ministries”. 1Timothy 1: 12-17 is a scripture I feel really surmises the events in my life. Please note I have added and underlined my own emphasis.
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a drug dealer, bully, arrogant, self-centered, blasphemer, persecutor and violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (N.I.V. Zondervan 1985).
In a world so driven by material gain I have found peace in this personal revelation. Although I have achieved in this life many good things, none of those achievements are worth all that much to anyone other than my self; rather, it is all the trials, tribulations and defeats I have endured that are of the greatest use to my fellow man. It is really hard to believe that I have come so far in such a short amount of time, but I have lived it, so I know it’s true. Since our time together in jail, I ran into Clarence one time in Minneapolis. He was back on the crack pipe and was asking for $13.00. Clarence said he needed the money for a car part, but when I looked into his eyes, he knew that I could see he was he was high; hence he admitted to me that he was backslidden. I offered him a room at the sober house I was managing, but he declined, took the money I offered him and walked off into the distance. Keith, on the other hand, was doing real well the last time I saw him in fact, he was doing some ministry of his own. I have not been able to catch up with him since I returned home however, I hope to real soon. Nonetheless, I will never forget either one of them for the rest of my life. For the morning I sat down with Clarence Moore and Keith Hammonds to read the infallible word of God would be the morning I truly began to live.