For many of us, when we think of how God pulled us out of the “miry clay,” it was the darkness of a life with Christ. For others, though, that miry clay is much darker than simply living in spiritual ignorance.
Jermaine Wilson of Leavenworth, Kansas is living proof that when Gods pulls us out from the depths of our sin, He can do so even when we are in quite literally very dark and dirty places.
Wilson’s life began spiraling out of control at a startlingly young age. At just 11 years old, he says, he “started doing what everybody else was doing: getting into drugs, ripping and running the streets, getting in fights, kicked out of school, ran away from home, and I was incarcerated at 15.”
When he attempted to escape from juvenile detention, his sentence was raised from two years to four years, meaning Wilson would spend the rest of his teen years behind bars.
When he was released at age 19, Wilson says he dove headfirst right back into the same life, only now he was selling drugs as well as using them.
Wilson’s love of sin landed him right back behind bars at age 21. This time, the kid gloves were off, and he was doing time in a maximum security wing at Lansing Correctional Facility.
“If I don’t change, it’s either going to be two things that are going to happen: I’m either going to spend the rest of my life in prison or dead in a casket,” Jermaine said, retelling his story to CBS.
It was there, sitting in his cell, that God began a miraculous work in Wilson’s heart.
“That’s when I cried out to God: ‘God, if you’re real, speak to my heart, change my heart,’” Wilson shared with KCUR.
“I knew that I could never go back and change the hands of time, but I knew I could be productive and make a difference by moving forward. I wanted that. I didn’t want to hurt anybody else.”
Right then and there, God flipped the light switch in Wilson’s heart. In prison, Wilson was one criminal among many, but he became set apart the moment God changed his heart.
From there, Wilson says he set his mind to studying, spending every free moment during his time at Lansing studying God’s Word and making plans for the new life awaiting him upon his release.
When Wilson was freed, he went right to work serving the community he once ravaged. He began the nonprofit Unity in the Community Movement, which lifts up and guides at-risk youth, serves homeless people in the area, and aims to strengthen the community’s bond with its law enforcement officers.
In 2015, Wilson’s criminal record was expunged: a clean slate to match his new life in Christ. Not long after, with the encouragement of friends and his wife, Jessica, Wilson took on the next challenge of his life: running for mayor of Leavenworth.
In January, Wilson won the mayor seat, proving that truly anyone can become an amazing new creation.
“There’s this quote that I always go by: ‘You’ll never know what you are until you’ve encountered what you are not,’” Wilson explained to CBS. “I experienced being someone that I wasn’t created to be. And when I tried the opposite, I succeeded.”
Sometimes, God allows us to become like the prodigal son, wandering away from safety and prosperity to chase the sin we love until it lands us neck-deep in the mud.
“That’s why I’m here, because if that wouldn’t have happened,” he said, “I would have never had the time to think. I would have never had an opportunity to build a relationship with God.”
For Wilson, even his worst moments in his past life demonstrate that God’s hand was on him all along. “I don’t suggest prison,” he quipped, “But one thing I tell you, we all go through a time in our life when we hit rock bottom. When you’re at rock bottom there’s only one other place to go, and that’s up.”