I am blessed to be in an excellent nondenominational church that has a wonderfully diverse congregation from all walks of life. I met Tommy in our Sunday school class and have been impressed with his thoughtful insight into the faith. He brings a unique perspective to our discussions on this blog and we look forward to future posts. So grab a hanky as you start to read. You will need it. All this jaded blogger can say is, "Wow."
Tommy Shore's biography in his own words.
I am 57 years old. I was born in Durham, N. C. and the youngest of 3 boys. I graduated from Jordan High School in Durham and was a quarterback in football and a point guard in basketball. I went to East Carolina University and played basketball there. I received my B.S. degree from ECU and worked as an Occupational Therapist for 2 years. I married my high school sweetheart and have 2 children, Erin and Bradley. I graduated with honors from Duke University's Physician Assistant Program and was enjoying a successful career in Orthopaedic Surgery until the onset of my addiction.
Today I am divorced and working as a salesman at Rice's Glass Company. I was released from prison 6 months ago and truly enjoying, not only physical freedom, but spiritual freedom that only comes from Jesus Christ. I have had the wonderful opportunities to share my testimony at several churches and share of God' s message of hope. I still play pickup basketball as God has blessed me with good physical health.
Tommy's story told in his own words.
I was the youngest of 3 boys blessed to be raised by wonderful Christian parents. I started going to church 9 months before I was born. When the doors were open, I was in church. Looking back, I can vividly see the adverse effects of a legalistic religion. It seemed to nurture a shame-based existence to my life. Although I was cognizant of my salvation, I had definititive issues in understanding and embracing God's grace.
As a teenager, I had dreams and aspirations and was fortunate enough to achieve most of them. I was gifted in athletics and I was proud of accomplishments in sports. While attending East Carolina University I played freshman basketball and upon graduation married my high school sweetheart. We were immensely blessed with two beautiful children Erin and Bradley. I then attended Duke University and graduated with honors from the Physician Assistant program and began a rewarding career in Orthopaedic Surgery.
Yet , in spite of my successes, there was something missing in my life, a spiritual void. I was fighting a battle inside my soul, searching for a purpose and peace. I was very prideful and judgmental and wore a mask, a spiritual facade in hopes of hiding my true feelings.
For example, if I ever had the opportunity to happen to ride by a prison, I would glance over and think "there's the losers of the world." Never in my wildest dreams did I realize that, at that very moment, God marked a date on the calendar in which my very own life would be so greatly affected and changed by becoming one of those "loser" inhabitants.
A few years later I developed a very painful sinus infection and was prescribed a narcotic medication which I rapidly became addicted to. It seemed magic in that it temporarily filled that void in my life producing a false sense of contentment. The ensuing years were truly hell-on-earth. I visited several treatment centers. I was arrested on numerous occasions for forging prescriptions to obtain the chemicals that would destroy my life. I was placed in jail and incarcerated on two seperate occasions. Eleven of the past thirteen years I have been identified as #0367918 in the N.C. Department of Correction.
I know today that an omniscient and loving God still had a divine purpose for my l ife but first needed me to be broken in order to surrender and turn everything over to Him. That was absolutely mandatory in my prideful and self-absorbed life. I became hopeless, helpless and obsessed with suicide as I lost every thing and everyone I held dear.
Now here's the awesome way in which God revealed His grace to me in the toughest of environments. Prior to this eye-opening life experience of God's grace, the only way I would describe God's grace was "unmerited favor." I had never fully understood just how sacrificial and precious it truly was.
When I processed into the prison system I was dispensed a pair of very cheap tennis shoes. Inmates referred to the as BoBo's. They consisted of a thin canvas shell witha thin flat rubber bottom and no arch support whatsoever. They were very uncomfortable to wear, even for the briefest periods of time. But there were no other options available to me , so I hobbled around with swollen ankles and feet.
However, at that time, an inmate was allowed to receive new and modern tennis shoes from home. Well, I wasn't exactly on anyone's mailing list so new tennis shoes were impossible for me. One afternoon I was standing on the yard talking with Jim, another inmate, who befriended me, and a black inmate walked up wearing a brand new pair of tennis shoes from home. Jim knew A.J. and remarked how much he admired his new shoes. Jim then added "I wish we could find Tommy a pair of shoes."
A.J. was a black inmate who was serving a life sentence for murder. He inquired of my shoe size and I responed "10 1/2." He said "come with me." I was sensitive to prison ploys but for some reason I felt comfortable following this black convicted murderer to his dorm. As I approached his bunk I noticed a pair of older Reeboks on the floor beside his bunk. He informed me that he had worn that pair for 3 years. He asked if I wanted to try them on. The fact was that I would not even wear my own tennis shoes for 3 years feeling it necessary to always have a almost new pair on for appearances. Now I was faced with trying on, not only someone else's pair of old shoes, but those who had been worn by a black man serving a life sentence for murder. I would have never even given him the time of day.
I sat on A.J.'s bunk and put on his 3 year old Reeboks. They not only fit perfectly but were so comfortable that I felt like I was walking on air compared to the painful BoBo's. Now, don't miss this because I firmly believe that God orchestrated this life lesson years ago when I was so filled with pride and prejudice. He was determined that I embrace His grace instead of just having a head knowledge of it.
I can not adequately describe how good these tennis shoes felt on my feet. My feet felt as if they were receiving a "spa" treatment. A.J. then looked into my eyes and said "They are yours, just bless someone else down the road." I had been warned that crying in prison was a sign of weakness but I was so overcome by this unveiling of God's grace that I stood beside A.J.'s bunk and wept.
You see, God knew that all the sermons or hymns in the world would never impact me like this interaction.He loved me so much that He had to reveal His grace to me in a most unusual place.I may have been known only as #0367918 to the Department of Correction but the King of Kings calls me "son." Armed guards and razor wire was effective in keeping me in but proved futile in keeping out the amazing grace of God and I am a different person today for this experience.