Single Matters: Gene, I’m sure you get this question often—but at 52, why haven’t you been married?
Gene: I made choices as a teenager and was incarcerated for 35 years.
Single Matters: You couldn’t have a relationship behind bars correct?
Gene: No. As a matter of fact, it was there that I continued having relationships with women, although limited to letters, phone calls and weekly visitation privileges. Growing up as a young man, I always felt I needed a girlfriend in my life. For many years I would hardly go a couple of months without one. There was something exciting going on in a new relationship, and discovery of that person was an adventure. None of the relationships lasted due to my inability to make a commitment. Whenever I was alone, I would begin to feel insecure and unloved, only to repeat the cycle with another girlfriend. After a short season of walking with the Lord as a born-again believer behind bars, I began to realize I was depending on the other person to validate me as a man.
Single Matters: Explain to the readers why these relationships didn’t keep you from being lonely.
Gene: The real issue for me wasn’t the prison system, but my need for identity, purpose and destiny. I was starving for validation as a young man. Having never received it from my parents, I sought it out using the girlfriend I had at the time to affirm my appearance and my presence. I became dependent on another for my well-being. There has always been a tremendous desire in people to walk in their God-designed identity, purpose and destiny. The source of all these must be supernaturally charged as it was for Jesus in Luke 4. A quick read-through the first 13 verses will prove that these three areas are vital to every person, or else the enemy would not have focused his attack on each area. What I needed the most could only come from a relationship with my Heavenly Father through our Savior Jesus Christ. Being single is the arena where God would capture my heart.
Single Matters: When did you come to Jesus as your Savior?
Gene: I accepted Christ as my Savior while incarcerated, through hearing the Gospel and a testimony of a man who had a personal relationship, purpose and a destiny with Jesus at 5 years of age. The moment I heard it, I knew what I was missing. After I made a commitment and began walking with the Lord, the consequences that had brought those painful lessons were exchanged for wisdom.
Single Matters: What is one thing you learned while being incarcerated?
Gene: The Word of God never fails to provide validation of worth and meaning. While God has numerous ways to validate us, He is the ultimate source. Jesus made it clear that he needed no man to validate him. I was liberated from depending on another’s voice through hearing God tell me, “You are my son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22, NIV). Like Jesus who received those validating words before his ministry life started, I had not done anything either; in fact, I wasn’t even looking my best the day I received these words. Since the fall of man in the garden, we have needed to hear those words spoken over and into us by our loving Father. Until the voice comes from the divine, we will be subject to the ever-changing and fleeting voices of people whom we look to for validation.
Single Matters: You didn’t have the resources most people have, so how is it that you have such wisdom in the things of the Lord?
Gene: I heard someone say there are two ways to learn wisdom. The easiest would be sitting at the feet of a mentor and then following the pattern they set before us. We basically mimic their behavior. The other—consequence—is more painful due to avoiding warning signs and crashing! Finding yourself laid up in the hospital with broken body parts due to crashing through the guardrails and down a steep, rugged cliff is a far more painful lesson. Consequence has the painful power to teach us what doesn’t work. Being scraped off the ground at the bottom of a cliff only adds to the insult of having ignored all the warning signs. I have benefited from both, yet the first one is far less painful and comes without hospital bills.
Single Matters: What is one thing you want single people to know about their non-married status?
Gene: Being single, where everyone has to start, doesn’t have to be painful when you have validation from the Father of how He sees you.