Lee Horton knows a sensation that few experiences.

He knows what it is like to be free.

In 1993, Lee and his brother Dennis were convicted of armed robbery and murder. They received a sentence of life in prison without parole. It looked hopeless.

Even though they pleaded they were innocent, they spent years behind bars. They were model prisoners who became role models for so many others.

In December of 2020, the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons recommended a commutation to the governor who granted it. Lee walked out of prison free.

What’s it like to be free? Here is how he describes it.

I’m going to tell you honestly. The first thing that I was aware of when I walked out of the doors and sat in the car and realized that I wasn’t handcuffed. And for all the time I’ve been in prison, every time I was transported anywhere, I always had handcuffs on. And that moment right there was … the most emotional moment that I had. Even when they told me that the governor had signed the papers … it didn’t set in until I was in that car and I didn’t have those handcuffs on.

And I don’t think people understand that the punishment is being in prison. When you take away everything, everything becomes beautiful to you. … When we got out … we went to the DMV to get our licenses back. My brother and I stood in line for two and a half hours. And we heard all the bad things about the DMV. We had the most beautiful time. And all the people were looking at us because we were smiling and we were laughing, and they couldn’t understand why we were so happy. And it just was that – just being in that line was a beautiful thing.

I was in awe of everything around me. It’s like my mind was just heightened to every small nuance. Just to be able to just look out of a window, just to walk down a street and just inhale the fresh air, just to see people interacting. … It woke something up in me, something that I don’t know if it died or if it went to sleep. I’ve been having epiphanies every single day since I’ve been released.

One of my morning rituals every morning is I send a message of ‘good morning, good morning, good morning, have a nice day’ to every one of my 42 contacts. And they’re like, ‘how long can (he) keep doing this?’ But they don’t understand that I was deprived. And now, it’s like I have been released, and I’ve been reborn into a better day, into a new day. Like, the person I was no longer exists. I’ve stepped through the looking glass onto the other side, and everything is beautiful.

Paul told the unappreciative Galatians:

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

Christ’s death on the cross removed the shackles of sin from their lives, yet it seemed they wished to stay in their self-made prison. For some reason, they could not experience what true freedom was. They dabbled in living by law and flirted with sin.

We need to ask ourselves a simple question. Have we taken freedom in Christ too lightly?  Until our sense of freedom equals or surpasses Lee Horton’s, we haven’t experienced it as God would have us.

-Robert G. Taylor-