One of my favorite books of the Bible is James. And one of my favorite verses is:
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12
I’m sure many will see the title of this article and think, “Yup, this guy’s crazy”, but hear me out on this one.
Before I go into the ways home confinement actually blessed me, my wife and our marriage, I need to give you an idea of what home confinement is like and how the system works – – or is supposed to work.
And it’s not exactly like what you might expect.
The judge in my case did not allow any electronic monitoring, so I didn’t have an ankle bracelet.
A lot of folks hear home confinement and immediately think of the big, bulky, black ankle bracelet you see in all the movies. But that wasn’t the case for me.
So, the lack of an ankle bracelet often led people to ask the question; “how are they tracking you, did they implant a government chip, do they watch you via some fancy satellite monitoring system?”
Well, no. It’s the federal government so, enter the landline.
You know, those ancient things your parents and grandparents had in the house, which are quickly becoming as obsolete as payphones, actually do still exist. And that is how the government, with all its technology decided they would track me.
During the course of my home confinement, the phone would ring throughout the day at random times.
I had no idea when the phone would ring, the first call could come at 7:01 am or 11:59 am and the last call could come at 6 pm or 10:59 pm, it just depended on how the system was rotating that day.
The call is an automated message telling me that I had five minutes to call back and check in.
Then I had to call back a set phone number that led to another automated system which read off a string of random numbers that I had to read back. The system used a voice verification program to make sure it was me calling, and not a neighbor, my wife, or one of the dogs.
In a nutshell, an automated phone system tracked my daily movements for six months.
I was not allowed out of the house, could not do yard work and couldn’t even walk to the mailbox to check the mail.
Please note, this was only my situation, as I’ve found out, home confinement can differ wildly depending on the PO (probation officer).
I could probably write an entire article just on the issues I had with this check-in system but suffice it to say, as with any technology this system has a lot of glitches and bugs that caused me many stressful moments.
Because not answering was a violation, not calling back in five minutes was a violation, getting the numbers wrong was a violation; oh, and there was a monthly fee for this system which of course I had to pay. Failure to pay on time was considered a violation.
Additionally, every week by the close of business Thursday I was required to send my complete schedule for the following week to my probation officer.
This was a somewhat comical endeavor.
You see, I work from home, most people on home confinement are allowed to go to work if they have a place to go of course.
As part of my home confinement I was allowed to leave the house for one church service a week, and for community service and doctor appointments if approved in advance by my PO.
So here is an example of what a normal schedule looked like for six months:
Sunday – Depart house @ 9:30am for church and return home no later than 1:30pm.
Monday – Friday – Home
Saturday – Depart house @ 7:45am for community service at Upward Basketball, return home no later than 5:45pm.
Under no circumstances was I allowed to leave the house for any other reason, I couldn’t even pick tomatoes or cucumbers from our garden, or make stops for coffee on the way to or from church.
Hopefully, I’ve explained at least my home confinement situation a little so you get a better understanding of my day-to-day life for those six months.
Did you happen to catch what I said a little earlier about my office “situation?”
Mull that over for a minute. I was on home confinement and could only leave the house for a few hours every Sunday morning and for community service on Saturdays, and my job (as well as my wife’s) was based out of our house.
Yup, you’re getting the picture now. My wife Beth and I were together a whole lot!
Beth and I have always worked together, it’s how we met and fell in love, so working together was not an issue. We were and still are a team, we like being a team and honestly, we are a darn good team.
While Beth and I are a good team, we both work in very different ways.
Beth is a morning person. She does her best work between the hours of 6:30am and noon.
I am a night owl. I remain baffled that Beth actually enjoys getting up between 4:45am and 5:30am for no real reason. And she is just as baffled by the fact that I like to stay up till midnight or later, usually working.
Beth is easily distracted, I am not. I usually work with music on, or even the TV on while I read, write, edit copy and approve TV ads.
Beth cannot work that way. She must have silence to be able to concentrate.
She likes to talk through issues and plans, I do not. I like to have people write drafts of their plans and issues and questions and present them to me that way.
By this point, you’re probably thinking, how could there have been any blessings in that situation. That’s a lot of time together for two people so drastically different.
Frankly, there were times during confinement I wondered the same thing.
But now that I can look back on it, I realize not only was it part of His plan for us, but that part of the plan contained many blessings.
First, we became even closer than we were (did I mention this all took place in the first year of our marriage?), we communicate better, and we learned that we could not internalize our issues, or problems with each other.
Because of this — and because we realized it so early in the home confinement period — we only had one argument during the entire six months and it was because both of us were letting something eat away at us instead of talking about it.
I thought we communicated well before home confinement, but when you spend as much time together as we did for those six months, you learn you need to be very open with each other or you can start to harbor resentment for the other person.
We opened lines of communication that I don’t believe ever would have been opened without home confinement. And of course, you really learn a lot about a person when you see them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for six months.
Second, my prayer life, our prayer life really developed.
It is easy to doubt God in these situations and to feel like He just isn’t listening but I learned so much about myself and His Word during my prayer times.
One of the big things I learned is that I can just “be still” sometimes. He knows what’s in my heart and having times where I say nothing and just listen has been incredibly healing for me.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Romans 8:26
What an awesome feeling knowing that I don’t have to have the perfect prayer!
Lastly, Beth and I both became much more aware of the small blessings in our lives.
I wrote earlier about my community service on Saturdays at Upward Basketball, a Christian youth basketball league at our church.
We reported on the Upward Basketball’s ministry in this recent article.
I wanted to volunteer with Upward but once I was sentenced to home confinement, I thought there would be no chance I would be allowed.
But the Lord laid it on my heart that I should reach out to my PO to see if maybe I could use it as part of my community service hours.
The PO said he’d consider it and would talk to our Pastor, but to be honest, I wasn’t optimistic it would be approved. However, I continued to pray about it.
Much to my shock, it was approved and I was allowed to start working Saturdays at the church.
For me this wasn’t about fulfilling my community service (though that was a bonus), it was about working with an amazing youth program, spending time with our new friends and church family and spreading the word about our Lord and Savior and His love for us.
What an awesome blessing!
I’ve now been involved with the Upward program every year since, coaching, announcing and running the scoreboards and music. I am jokingly, but lovingly referred to as “The Voice of Upward” at our church.
And because of this, I dragged Beth kicking and screaming to help me out with our youth program. And now she is in school getting her master’s in ministry and is a full-time employee of the church working in our children’s ministry program.
We have created our own ministry now which we will be launching later this year and I have given my testimony to groups of students and adults.
The Lord didn’t hand us the easy way out in any of this and I truly believe that is because He was using it to build our faith in Him to prepare us for what He has next for us.
I thought our faith was strong leading up to the trial and ultimate conviction but it has grown so much stronger since the conviction, the home confinement, and the financial struggles it has put us through.
I look back and realize it was during that time period, some would say the worst of my life, that I became a changed person.
He has great plans for me and Beth, and I am eager to continue watching them unfold.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17