By: Gilbert Morales

I’ve served 17 years straight on a natural life sentence for first degree murder. For the first 10 1/2 years I did time the way I wanted, and it was an experience I’ll never forget. I look back now and wonder in amazement how I ever endured all those life threatening situations. I stayed high and got drunk off of homemade wine because I did not want to feel like I was doing time. The logic to it all was to not feel the pain or the hardship of doing time. I didn’t ‘t care what the consequences were for my actions. Long before I came to this prison I was in a prison of my own. In fact, I did the same thing I did when I was on the street, just not as consistent. After giving up hope in the courts and trying to get back on an appeal for a reversal, I didn’t care if I lived or died for whatever reason. So getting into trouble was a common thing. Anytime I wanted to justify my actions, my statement was, “So what! I ain’t got no out date!” For what reason do I have to be cool or laid back for? I’m not going home. I am home.

The harder my reputation became the deeper into drugs and criminal activity I got into. It’s easy to get on someone’s line or payroll if you have the reputation. Soft or passive criminals want a guy with a hard reputation with alot of heart to be part of their circle. I have always been involved with Latino organizations and have been a leader in the negative perspective for the Latino Community. I used to make sure I surrounded myself with strong people so that we could be strong together. One day, I got into my preferred drug, cocaine. I was doing it like I had my addiction beat, but a quick snort was all it took, and I was back on it like I had never quit before. Drinking and smoking weed deceived me, and made me believe, “I can handle coke now.”

I was tricked all over again. And shortly afterwards, I hit rock bottom. My backsliding led me deep into a hole of self-pity and despair. When you hit bottom in prison, you know it’ s deep.
During these hard ten and a half years, my father died, some uncles, aunts, my grandfather, and countless cousins have I lost. Recently my oldest brother died and even lost my baby brother at the age of 12 years old. Just the other day my younger brother O.D’d. (overdosed) on some pills – thanks to God he lived. Yes, it is all bad news today but old news tomorrow. But you can’t dwell on that, you put it aside like it ain’t nothing ’cause that is the norm around these places. As each experience penetrated my soul, I felt myself getting colder and colder. That is a lonely and scary feeling. When you stop feeling for your loved ones, you know you have to seek a power other than your own. The drugs were faking me out, making me believe that it was no big thing. But it was and it got the best of me.

Many times in the past, I had heard that power from above calling me, and I pretended to hear Him. I’ d fake myself out and say, “Yeah, I ‘m gong to quit this or that,” but as soon as trouble arose or stress got the best of me, I was back the way I was. I couldn’t fool God. He knew I wasn’t serous, and I wasn’t. In 1996 while standing rock bottom in the shower at Brooks Correctional Facility, I called on God. The last little hope I had I asked, “Lord please help me to change my ways.” Now God doesn’t make contracts with us, but I asked Him to bring a female friend back named Stella, into my life again. Here’s a lady who had been with me since the beginning of my misfortune and one day, like a butterfly from a cocoon, I cut her loose. She had been out of my life nearly five and a half years and showed no signs of ever coming back. But when I turned to God, He heard and blessed me with her presence just a month and a half after that prayer I prayed in 1996. She was under what would seem to some people, impossible situations, but to God all it took was one word from Him and she was back. I knew He was paying attention and I cherished the gift of love He had given us. She was my key at that time for loving God. I used to think, “Who in their right mind would want to spend time with a man, and have faith in him doing life without parole?” Only God could of planted that seed of love and devotion in a person’s life.

That was then and this is now. Since that testimony in my life, that lady has left me without a trace yet I continue in God’s journey walking towards the light, which is Jesus. It wasn’t easy watching all I prayed for and desired come to pass and then to watch it slip away like grains of sand in my hand. Oh, how I have miracles to speak on about why I believed that my lady, Estella, was an angel sent from God in my 1ife, where many people might say it is coincidence. But I will not take away from God what is His. He does not deal in coincidences.

Since she separated from me, I looked at her as a bad person or an enemy. And being that she caused me so much pain, I considered her to be working with the devil to bring me down. But in all actuality it was my selfishness that kept me from seeing God’ s purpose. When His will began to reveal itself in my life, I see it was “I” who had it all wrong. I considered her from God, so I would meditate on her all day long 1nstead of Jesus. Questions would flow through my mind: “when is she going to write? When is she going to see me? Or I can’t wait to call her etc. etc…” instead of focusing on God’s will, God’s revelation and God’s love. I had lost focus on the Giver of the gift and focused on the gift itself. I had broken the greatest commandment He gave us, “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.” Jesus said, “Worship the Lord our God and serve Him only.” And He wasn’t buying it all from me, what I was attempting to give Him.

So little by little the law took effect in my life and Estella drifted away and broke my heart in the process. With anger and discouragement I would ask God in the late hours of the night, “Why did you let her leave when you know I love her? Why would you let her leave when you know I need her?” All I ever needed was Jesus but in my anguish I could not see it. Here it is under my circumstances that I gambled and put all of my eggs in one basket and look what happened. In all of my years in prison and even when the judge sentenced me to life without parole, did I feel so much pain. But what He revealed to me was that the only way He was going get inside of me was to break my heart. I had gotten so coldhearted with everything and everybody except her. That was a turning point in my life just like when I was in that shower and I had submitted to Him. God took everything from me. He took all the people and family in my life to show me who was really there. It was Him, Jesus. I looked to the left and no one was there; I looked to the right and no one was there. I knew then He had sent Estella into my life to teach me a word. The best way He was going to deal with me was with a broken spirit and broken contrite heart. He had to literally break it in order to give me the best…Jesus.

During the whole ordeal I thought about going back to drugs. She was gone; no friends, no family, no God. Nothing moved, nothing to live for and all love was lost. On Friday the 13th of 2000 a day after my birthday, I put away all my Bibles and studies of Jesus and went looking for some homemade wine. And no sooner said than done was the devil lurking and had what I wanted. I got drunk and cursed everything that walked. Afterwards the conviction was overwhelming and I knew I had fallen like so many of God’s sons. A revelation through Sampson and Delilah came to me and I had found my Delilah. I fell to my knees and the only way I could look was up to ask for forgiveness. The fire within my heart grew stronger and my fall only made me appreciate standing back up even more. Jesus was always there. He knew I could endure it so He allowed me to go through it. And when I had seen what He wanted me to see, He helped me back up. Now He would use that which held me down to help others get back up.

What He taught me through this level of my journey was that the broken heart I felt was the way He felt when people serve other idols in their life – if it be money, family, friends, or anything that you put before Jesus. Or, that they would put all their hearts into the blessing instead of the Blessed. It is understanding God’s Love and forgiveness that I receive through our Lord Jesus Christ that I have come to accept the sad tragedy that brought me here to prison. I am sorry for the lives of people I have effected and destroyed which is another tragedy, and the only one who could make amends for that kind of destruction is our Lord who went to the Cross. What God put in my heart was the main way I could make amends to humanity, which was to dedicate my life to Him. It is His strength in me that I have been able to endure all the obstacles and make the best of this situation. And being that I am a new creation through Christ, I can begin to rebuild that which I have destroyed.

Once I am released from the people I have effected with the negative lifestyle, then truly I will be free indeed from it all. But, for now, what is important is that Jesus has set me free from all my sin. My life is a hard core example and experience of what it takes to rise from the dead.

Friend, if you are in or dabbling in a life of crime, it doesn’t have to be so hard for you as it was for me. I pray my life will be an example for you to learn from, and please don’t take a life of crime so lightly. All it takes to be where I’m at is a drink of beer, or a blow of a pipe. You don’t have to be a light in prison – you can be a light in society. Leave the bad examples to us. Allow God to open the eyes of your heart and see the Light as I have seen. On this day, I’m not mad at Estella nor do I hate her. I do not feel bitter towards God because He took her from me. I have come to realize that she is and always was my best friend next to Jesus. It was because of her that I grew closer to God and learned to depend on Jesus. It was her leaving that built an intimate relationship with Jesus.

After all these hard years I realize that there isn’t nothing soft or weak about being a Christian and that it takes courage to stand up as a true follower of Jesus Christ. It is today that I realize that God is the only one who takes care of all the misfits with fragile hearts.