Excitement fills Shane Rubash's voice as he shares his weekend plans. "My son's season opener for baseball is today," he gushes, "and I'm heading to see him!"
Baseball has always been more than just a game to Shane. As a kid, Shane turned to baseball as an escape from the abuse and neglect he felt at home. Throughout his childhood in Monroe, Washington, his dad struggled with alcoholism. Shane would try to deflect the negativity onto himself to protect his mother. Her outlet, Shane says, was a devout faith in God—something Shane never fully embraced growing up.
Starved for attention his dad couldn't give, young Shane struggled with anger and self-doubt:
I was extreme in everything I did, which in turn gave me lots of highs and lows. I was very passive aggressive and a people pleaser. I'd take a lot from people until I couldn't, and then I'd blow up. I was taught that men don't cry. Don't express emotions; just bottle them up and go on with your life.
'I was taught that men don't cry.
Don't express emotions; just bottle them up and go on with your life.'
Overperforming took its toll, and Shane ended up dropping out of high school at 16. By age 20, striving to build the happy home life he always wanted, Shane had a wife, a child, and more responsibility than he was prepared to handle.
"We were kids pretending to be adults, being parents with house payments and car payments," he admits. "Financially it was a huge burden and struggle just trying to function."
Desperate for relief from stress and the heated arguments with his wife, Shane turned to meth.
AS GOOD AS IT GETS
Drugs helped Shane detach from reality—until the police caught him with drugs and a firearm in the house. He went to prison for 18 months.
By release day, Shane's marriage had crumbled into divorce. But he left prison sober, went back to work, and stayed out of trouble for the next decade. Life had resumed, and he even tried dating again. Then his girlfriend brought home something surprising: a bag of meth.
Shane thought, Is this really happening?
Three weeks in, his girlfriend was hooked. Shane held his job for a while and only used meth on the weekends—except those when his kids came to visit. "It was easy to be OK when they were around. As soon as they'd go home, I'd go back to using," Shane admits.
Soon he and his girlfriend were not only using but selling, and their relationship grew more toxic and abusive. Shane grew distant from his family and lost sight of everything he once enjoyed about life. And his anger only continued to boil under the surface.
After many fights, Shane's fourth no-contact order was a felony. His freedom was gone again.
I had resigned myself to believing, 'This is as good as it's going to get for me.' I was just giving up.
Sitting in jail, Shane received a fateful visit from an old friend who was a Christian.
"I felt like God told me you were in jail," she told him. "I want to tell you that God has forgiven you."
That's when Shane broke down crying. He knew something needed to change, and he knew he couldn't do it alone. He prayed, God, if You're real and You can change my life, come change me.
MEETING GOD IN JAIL
In the quiet before dawn the next morning, Shane couldn't sleep. He dusted off a Bible and started searching for answers.
God showed up that morning, and every morning since. My morning devotions are how God dials me in every morning. I meet God every day for coffee and devotions, and He has blessed me. Mark 1:35 says that while it was still dark, Jesus woke, left the house, and went to a quiet place and prayed. So, I feel like I'm following in His footsteps every morning. … In that jail cell, it was quiet. Jails and prisons are so loud and moving all hours of the day, until you're alone at night. Then it's so quiet. And those officers let me get up before everyone else and do my devotions.
By the time he transferred from jail to prison, he was reading Scripture for hours on end and starting spiritual conversations with fellow prisoners. He showed up to every church service he could find, but he still wanted more.
THE PRISON FELLOWSHIP ACADEMY®
Shane applied for the Prison Fellowship Academy®, a faith-based program that takes people through a process to confront their issues, be transformed from the inside out, and take responsibility for making better choices. Through the Academy, and with the help of caring volunteers and the program curriculum, Shane began to deal with his lifelong attempt to escape from problems rather than resolve them.
"We faced addiction, anger, pain," explains Shane, whose favorite classes covered topics like finances and parenting. As he developed good habits and grew spiritually, he began taking steps to make amends for his past, however possible. He wrote an apology letter to his ex-wife. He tried to reach out to his estranged children, who finally started answering his phone calls and began to realize their dad was a changed man.
It was like a community group where we held each other accountable in the room and outside of the room. We really built a bond. I can't tell you how much Prison Fellowship has helped me … in growing as a person.
Through it all, Shane received guidance from Academy volunteers like Bill. "He was always ready to answer our questions and help us tackle hard things," Shane says. "He told us we needed to have a purpose: something to focus on instead of ourselves, allowing God to work in our lives."
For Shane, the Academy became a safe place to belong while behind bars.
Then graduation day came, and he was put to the test.
'God showed up that morning, and every morning since. ...
I meet God every day for coffee and devotions, and He has blessed me.'
THE JOURNEY TO JOY
Released in 2016, Shane wasn't sure how to feel when his mom came to pick him up. He was excited and equally nervous. But he knew he could trust God in the face of the unknown.
Reentry came with its own curveballs, but Shane remained grounded in Christ. He connected with a church, where pastors and other church members helped him find work and supportive friendships. Now working for a Christian employer, Shane enjoys helping with services at a local Gospel mission twice a month, serving the homeless, and mentoring three former prisoners.
And he hasn't totally left the Academy behind: he keeps in touch with other graduates on the outside, and Bill is still his mentor today.
On the drive to his son's baseball game, Shane shares how thankful he is for his second chance at life: "I had a lot of struggles, but God covered me. All these things I wanted so badly when I was younger, God gave me in His time. I just had to be obedient and humble. It's not about me. It's about what God is doing in me."
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