I spent almost 4 years of my life incarcerated. That isn’t to mention the little bit’s of time here and there that I have done, 6 months for this or 45 days for that. No, this last time was a 16 year sentence. I received 10 years in the Indiana Department of Corrections and 6 years of probation. Under the old law you serve 50% of your time so I was looking at a complete 5 years.
When I got arrested I really didn’t care about anything. I had been living on the streets, a drug addict for 10 years, and I hadn’t gone around my children for months. I was barely 25. My parents were passed away and the rest of my family stopped having anything to do with me years before when I couldn’t stay out of trouble. Life was hopeless. I believed there was a God but I didn’t believe that he cared about me.
While I was in jail I was sick. I was coming off of crack and heroin and I begged God to take my life, I even tried to take my life but I got scared. I thought about my kids and how when they got older they would feel abandoned like I did as a kid. I was given up by my biological parents when I was born and my grandparents adopted me. I thought about how I didn’t ever want to be sober because I didn’t want to feel anything. I didn’t want reality.
I spent 7 months in the county jail before I went to prison. I was sober and I can remember thinking that I liked not being high and not being sick, just kind of level. I laughed more than I had ever laughed before, but I still didn’t want to talk about God. I didn’t even like to think about God or say the name of Jesus out loud and I would get mad when people would go to church. I was very much against “jailhouse religion”.
When I got to prison I stayed to myself at first. I was on a dorm that was loud and people liked to fight. There was a ton of drama and to be honest I was tired. I lived hard and fast for 10 years and I just wanted rest. I wanted forgiveness. I had been holding a lot of anger and hatred towards someone who caused some of the problems for which I was arrested. I knew that in order to forgive that person God would have to do it, I couldn’t.
I went to the library and got some Joyce Meyers books because there were a lot of them in the religious section. Looking back now I can see that you have to look for quality and not quantity because this lady has a lot of books but they really make no sense. I kept reading that I had to do this step and that step and it depended on me and if I really wanted it bad enough I would get it. WHAT?!?! All I could think was that when thing’s depend on me they crash and burn. I thought “what good is God if it all depends on me”.
Nevertheless I began to pray and I would just ask God to help me forgive. That’s what I really wanted, just to forgive. I didn’t know it then but God was calling me to Himself. I was walking on the walk one day and I just thought that I forgave the person who I was angry at. I don’t know why it came on then and there but it did. I empathized with the person and the situation and I was able to forgive. I remember thinking of how I could not be angry at him and not be angry at myself too. I just wasn’t angry anymore.
I didn’t really truly understand what was happening with me then, but I signed up for a program that offered a time cut because I needed to get out of prison sooner. In the meantime I wrote the person who I had been angry at and I told them that I forgave them. I signed up to be in the faith group of the program so I could learn more about God and forgiveness. I kept writing the person that I forgave and we were re-building our relationship. I was still missing something though, I felt like I was just kind of floating around wanting something but not sure what or how to get it.
As part of the faith group we were able to go to the chapel and watch videos. It was actually required. The first video that I watched was a Louie Giglio video about the stars and whales. It tore me up. For the first time I realized that God was infinitely huge, that He was creator and that He was sovereign over EVERYTHING. I immediately went into the chaplains office and talked to him. I of course was crazy. I told him to send me to do anything that had to do with God because Mr. Giglio had talked about Isaiah 6. He kinda laughed at me but he said he would. For the next 3 years my chaplain taught me the Doctrines of Grace and Reformed theology.
I can see now God’s providence, His sovereign reign over my life. Every little detail about my life, the good, the bad, and the ugly, are being worked out for my good and for His glory. He has purpose for me. The terrible things that I have done and have been done to me are a testimony that God has given me. I embrace my past and I know that God will use me to help others. I don’t question my salvation, I am an elect, a daughter of God. No matter what I have done or what I will do, God chose me before the foundations of the world. I had nothing to do with that…all of the glory is to God.
Here I am now at Through the Gate. I have been given this gift of living with the church. I am being taught how to be a godly woman. I am taken care of by people who want to honor and obey God because of who He is. I am in such an amazing position in my life right now because God has set out my path and He has placed me here. I am excited to see where He takes me and I pray that He will use me here, like He is using the volunteers of Through the Gate, to glorify Him by helping women like myself who are getting out of prison and learning to live for Him and sacrifice for His people!