The Power of Paradox

Over the past weeks, I have done dozens of interviews about The Good Life, my just-released book, and, of course, Deep Throat. If you saw any of these interviews, you would know that I startled a lot of interviewers when they asked about Watergate, and I responded I was grateful that I went to prison. When I told Aaron Brown, “Thank God for Watergate,” he looked stunned. But I meant it. One of the great truths I’ve discovered, one I discuss at length in The Good Life, is that life is filled with paradoxes. Things are not the way we think they’re going to be. For example, I’ve learned the greatest lessons in my life through suffering and defeats. And that’s the pattern of the cross, isn’t it? The great paradox: Adversity can produce the greatest blessings. What discouraged me most about prison was not separation from my family, though that was tough. It wasn’t even associating with the people in prison, because I grew to love them. It wasn’t the fact that I was uncertain about when I’d be released, and it wasn’t the conditions, such as they were. As a Marine I had lived in dormitories and foxholes—I could handle prison. No, the most excruciating pain was the realization that all of my dreams had been shattered. I felt I would never be able to do anything significant with my life again. I had gone into politics because I wanted to make a difference in the world. Now I was a disgraced convict, a Watergate felon in a prison cell. My dreams were over. But, of course, there’s the paradox. God used prison to prepare me for the greatest experience and blessing possible. This ministry over the last thirty years has been infinitely rewarding, much more so than my career in politics. I’ve had what I believed is the greatest opportunity of a good life, and that is, you see, to help others. I’m seventy-three and looking back on my life, what means the most to me aren’t the things I was able to do for myself or accomplish, but the way in which God used me to touch the lives of others. The Mary Kay Beards coming out of prison and starting Angel Tree. The Mike Gersons, whom I hired out of college, who’s now a Senior Assistant to President Bush. My own family, and perhaps thousands upon thousands of inmates that I’ve heard from who have a new life in Christ because of our ministry. Ironically and paradoxically, we find the good life not through things and possessions and material achievements, or things we do for ourselves. We find the good life through investing our lives in others. But if this is so, if giving our lives to others is the purpose of life, then the greatest question in life is to be sure that what you give yourself to is true. I devote more than half of this book to how we can know the truth. It’s the most critical question humans can ask in life. Christians, of course, are seekers and lovers of the truth. But I have geared this book, unlike most of the others I have written, for those non-believers out there, for deep in their hearts are the same questions all people ask about the meaning of life: How do we find purpose? Why are we here? What are we here for? I hope you’ll stay tuned (or keep reading) over the next week as I talk about some of the lessons I have learned in my life and what it is that makes the good life. It’s food for the hungry soul and some important lessons you can share with your unsaved friends.


Chuck Colson


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