Finding Life Behind Bars
By Kristi Watts
Mary Forsythe grew up in rural Kentucky where family was celebrated and life was simple. But despite her “good life,” Mary felt she was some how “different.” “I always felt like I was odd in a bad sense. I felt like something was wrong with me,” she says. “Something was defective. Even though I went through the motions, inside I was in really pain and torment even from a young child.”
Mary says she always felt rejected even though she never understood why. So to compensate she became an overacheiver -- a performer. For most of her adolescence it worked until…
“Something I never told anyone for many, many years… I was raped my second year in college.
“The rejection and the shame just began to grow in my life ‘till that’s all I knew. It affected my personality. It affected my choices. It affected my perception of almost every area of my life.”
So to mask her pain, she became even more driven to succeed. By her mid-20s she was a jet-setter.
Mary became a pharmacist and even owned her own store. In fact, her pharmacy was one of the most successful in Texas.
During the AIDS epidmic of the ‘80s, her store was one of few which sold a rare medication for HIV patients. So her client base was large, and the money was rolling in.
“I was riding the wave. Everything was going great, success was abundant,” she recalls.
Until the IRS discovered that her numbers just weren’t adding up.
She confesses, “I was extremely negligent over keeping records for the inventory.”
In fact, these “discrepancies” were large enough to potentially mean jail time.
“I felt like I was untouchable. I felt like I was totally in control. Surely I can get myself out of this. I had enough money to write a check from my checking account to just make up for the inventory discrepancy. We made that offer to the government, which they were definitely not interested in.”
But nothing could get Mary out of this jam, not even the promise of a presidential pardon. After enduring a very public three and half week trail, Mary was found guilty of all 15 felony counts ranging from mail-fraud to theft of government property. She was eventually sentenced to five years in a Texas state prison and three years probation.
“You couldn’t believe the pressure, public accusation, humiliation, and shame. It was all just piling up on me, and I couldn’t handle it.”
Mary also dealt with thoughts of suicide.
“One time I went into my pharmacy, and I walked up to the shelves knowing exactly what I could mix with one glass of wine, and it would be all over. I can remember reaching for the bottles, and it was like my hand froze in mid-air. I could not even pull the bottles off the shelf to get the medicine I needed to commit suicide.
“And then when I couldn’t even commit suicide, I thought, ‘Well, I can’t even do that right.’”
The first 24 hours of prison was, in Mary’s words, “overwhelming.”
“I was afraid. I was disoriented. I was very humiliated. I felt so alone, very isolated.
“The identity that I had built, the things that I had gotten worth from, the things that I relied on all of a sudden began to be taken from me. When I went through the check-in process, my identity just fell to the ground one piece at a time. “
Mary says the worst thing about the experience was seeing the pain of the other inmates.
“I’ve never seen a sea of hurting desperate really, if I could say this -- dilapidated lives. They were lives that were at total ruin.”
The high-dollar pharmacist was now baiting rat traps and mopping floors for 17 cents an hour. The arrogant, “prima-donna” that strutted into prison was quickly facing a reality check.
“I said, ‘God I can’t do it any more.’ I had finally hit the end. I had called on everything else that I knew. I’d been born again when I was 12, but really, what I had done was I shook the hand of Jesus, and I led my own life for all those years.”
Realizing that her life was out of control, Mary cried out to the God of her youth. She asked Him to forgive her, come into her heart and take over the life she had made such a mess of.
“Someone had given me a Bible when I went to prison,” she says. “I took it to the shower stall -- that’s the only place for any kind of privacy. I sat on the floor, and I opened that Bible and it was like life.”
“I can’t explain it, but at that moment, I knew that every answer that I’d been looking for was going to be found in that book. That was the beginning of my journey to study, learn the Word of God. It really was the beginning of my relationship with the Holy Spirit.”
Every chance Mary could get, she would devour the Word of God, and the more she read and understood the Word, the more she saw her world around her change.
“Total transformation began as the Word and the Spirit began to work in my life.”
Mary found herself a changed woman.
“The woman that went into prison never came out. She died. My arrogance, my lack of concern, lack of compassion, independence, self-righteous attitude, mixed in with the pain, the torment, and the curses – everything that composed me got totally rearranged and transformed. It wasn’t just a restoration -- it was a transformation.
“I began to know who God told me I was. The pain of the past began to just be pruned from my life because I had purpose.”
One of her purposes was to share the love of God with the other women.
“I’d never really read books on how to minister to people, so I was again so dependent on the Holy Spirit. So He began to give me what the Bible calls word of knowledge or prophetic words to help women get out of pain, get out of torment, get out of bondage and help get them on a path of life even in the midst of the prison environment that we were in.”
It wasn’t until Mary was released from prison that she realized who she really was for the first time in her life.
“I was broken, humbled, thankful, grateful, and in need. I needed a family. I needed friends. I’d lost everything. I was in awe of what God had done.”
Today Mary travels the globe as the president of Kindgom Ministries encouraging other people through her story.
“I love the transforming power of God’s word is that He can get every aspect of even the smallest residue to the largest stronghold of your past off your life. It doesn’t matter what we’ve gone through, what we’ve experienced, what the devil’s put on us, or what we’ve put on ourselves. God can remove it so your past can truly be your past so you can be positioned for your future.”
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