One day I was trying to think of a way to illustrate the concept of “redemption” which is defined as: “To be bought back.” This story is what I came up with. Be assured that I’ve never spent time in jail or in prison–except in my heart.

Seated on the bunk in my prison cell, I rested my head in my hands. How did I end up here? I don’t want to be here.

Regret swept over me. I didn’t think I’d get caught for my crime, but here I was.

Later at lunch, staring at my unappetizing meal, the prisoner sitting across from me drawled, “There’s a rumor that someone is willing to take anyone’s place for the rest of their sentence.”

My mouth dropped open in disbelief. It sounded too good to be true so I didn’t believe him. 

Other prisoners expressed their disbelief by giving the reasons they wouldn’t take advantage of such an outlandish thing:

“There must be some catch. It’s a trick to get me to admit my guilt. I won’t do it.”

Another inmate sounded off: “I’m almost done with my sentence, so I’m just gonna wait it out. Besides, if I do the time for the crime, I can pat myself on the back that I did it myself. No one is going to take that away from me.”

A third said, “Don’t tell anyone but my friend is setting up an escape plan for me. I don’t need someone else’s help.”

But I decided it might be a good idea to check it out so I set up an appointment with the warden and asked him about it.

He replied, “Yes, it is true. We don’t understand why this is happening, but there is indeed an offer by some local person who is willing to serve any inmate’s term.”

I stared incredulously at him. “What do I have to do to take advantage of it?”

The warden laughed. “Well, that’s the really weird part. This person only requires the inmate to admit his crime and believe he really will actually take the person’s place. Sounds outrageous, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah,” I replied. “I’d expect him to at least want me to pay him some money or something.”

“Yes, I would too but that’s not what he has offered.”

I made my decision in that moment. “I want to do it. Will you let him know I’ve acknowledged my part in the crime, and want him to take my place here?”

He nodded that he would.

Walking back to my cell, I could hardly believe what had just transpired. Can it really be true that I’m about to be set free? 

The next day, the dream became a reality when a guard led me from my cell, taking me through the releasing process. As I signed my name to the release form admitting my guilt, I could see a man being taken through the adjoining room, but he didn’t look like a criminal at all. “Who is that?” I questioned.

The guard replied, “That’s the man who’s taking your place.”

I stared at him, and as I did, he looked over at me. I silently mouthed, “Why?” 

He smiled back with a look of compassion in his eyes and said, “Because I love you.”

It was only then that I noticed the blood dripping from the palms of his hands.