"You reading that Bible again?" Ernesto's head hung down from the top bunk, looking at me.
"You know," I said, "I think I've discovered that the Bible is reading me."
"What are you talking about, man?"
"You really want to know?"
"I got nothing else goin' on."
I sat up. Ernesto dropped off his bunk and sat on mine. We had reached a point of mutual tolerance and even, on occasion, conversation. It usually happened like this, in the twilight time between chow and lights-out. Ernesto sometimes got downright chatty then.
"It's like this," I said. "I used to read the Bible just to get something out of it for me, like for my sermons or to back up something I was going to say in a book."
"But the Bible is living and active, sharper than any double-edge sword."
"What's that mean?" He looked interested. But I must say he was a true example of a captive audience.
"It means it reads me. It cuts me up. But I have to let it."
"You sound a little out there, man, you want to know the truth."
"Yeah, it sounds a little nuts. But God is doing the cutting, see, inside me. He's cutting out all the stuff I don't need, that I used to let get in the way. Now I've got plenty of time to let God do his work."
Ernesto was quiet for a long time. Then he said, "My grandmother used to try to get me to go to Mass. I couldn't take it. I got bored. Guess I had some of that attention thing."
"You gringos are great with the labels. But I always thought when I was in church that there was something going on, something I couldn't see, but it was there. It was floating around. Think that was God?"
"Definitely. But then I'd go one step further and say there's a way to know all about that presence. And it's in this book."
"We can talk about it if you want."
"You gonna try to convert me?"
"No, If that happens, it'll be because of the Word and the Spirit. But I'm thinking maybe there's a reason you and I were put in the same cell together."
"Yeah, so I can keep you from getting stabbed in the back. You are so white."
"Maybe I can return the favor."
"If I get bored, and I tell you to stop, you stop, got it?"
I took the Bible back and in that moment asked God what I should start with. The beginning. It didn't take a bright bulb to catch on to that.
So I started with, "In the beginning God..."
And for two straight hours Ernesto was not bored. He did not ask me to stop, and I felt for the first time in years that my preaching was anointed by God. Right there in a prison cell.
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