The reality of being in federal prison hit me in the gut like a ton of bricks. Many of the female inmates were from Mexico. Most of the crimes were United States border crimes involving either drugs or human trafficking. I heard the term Drug Mule and I was informed that I was one of those.
I was not in an actual cell. Instead, I was on the 6th floor of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in a wide-open dorm with groupings of metal bunk beds. There were four bunk beds (eight women) in each cluster. I sat alone, cross-legged on my bunk bed while the other women were off playing cards or watching television. I had received a Bible from the Chaplain and was trying to read it, but waves of depression and despair kept sweeping over me as the reality of losing Tyler began to sink in.
Unable to stop the surge of hot tears sliding down my face, I glanced up to see a small group of well dressed, manicured women walk into our pod. One of them looked straight at me. Our eyes met and without hesitation she marched straight over to my bunkbed and sat down next to me.
“Did you know that Jesus loves you very much?” she asked.
“Not me,” I mumbled, my tears turning into a faucet. “I’ve done too many things wrong. I’ve gone too far and been too evil for God to forgive me!”
This kind, godly woman patiently continued to INSIST that it did not matter what I had done! She explained that Jesus Christ hung and died on a cross to forgive me of my sins – every last one of them! She persisted in assuring me that nothing I had done was beyond God’s grace or His willingness and ability to forgive me.
As she spoke I felt HOPE rise up in my heart! That evening, as all the other inmates were off eating dinner, I stayed behind and knelt down beside my bunk on that cold, hard cement floor.
Through deep, painful, broken sobs, I begged Jesus to forgive me for every sin I had ever committed, and I asked Him to be my Lord and Savior!!!!
“Jesus, I’ve messed everything up so badly,” I wailed! “I don’t see how You could possibly fix the mess I made, but if anyone can, I believe it’s YOU! I’m 34 years old and I’ve completely destroyed my life; it’s YOURS now! I’m sorry, Jesus! I’m. So. Sorry! My life is YOURS now, Jesus! What can You do with it? Do whatever You want to with it! I’m DONE! I SURRENDER!”
As I prayed I sensed Jesus was very close to me. I felt His presence around me like a blanket. I don’t remember how long I cried and prayed aloud, but mysteriously none of the women returned from dinner until after my intimate, noisy prayer session ended.
I rose up from the cement floor a SAVED WOMAN! Forgiven! Set free! I slept like a rock that night!
The very next day I was moved to a different cluster in the pod where three of the women were doing a daily Bible study. They asked me if I wanted to join them. I was ecstatic and immediately accepted.
A bit of humor seeped in from time to time and lightened the severity of my circumstances. I would lay on my bunk, staring at the HVAC vents in the wall, fantasizing endlessly about unscrewing one and doing the Army crawl to freedom. Sharing this with the other women in my area caused an outburst of laughter. It felt good to laugh. It felt so good to suddenly be sober and FREE after seventeen years of being high.
I KNEW that God had a plan for me. My circumstances couldn’t have looked more bleak. I had just been arraigned at 17 years-to-life but for the first time in my life, I was FREE ON THE INSIDE and I knew it! And all because of this precious Jesus who died for me, forgave me, loved me, and rose from the dead leaving behind an empty tomb! He rose to life so that I could, too! And on that January of 2001, I made up my mind to grab hold of the second chance at life that God had so graciously granted me, and live it to the fullest!
Do you remember YOUR moment?