I was mad when I got arrested. I was just like the Prodigal Son who squandered his father’s inheritance. He wasted everything on pleasure, trying to fill the void in his soul until he had burned through all his options. At the end of his rope, he could no longer pretend he was in control. Consequences chasing him down, he finally had to face life’s hard reality. He was a mess. A total failure. He needed to come home.
That’s where I found myself that night in the holding cell of the county jail. I kept thinking I had things under control. I had dodged bullets and had so many close calls that I truly believed I was untouchable. I lived day to day, hand to mouth, paycheck to paycheck, high to high, escaping reality until it chased me down and crashed into me like a head-on collision.
I thought I knew everything. I thought God was for simple-minded people. Outdated. Old-fashioned. Weak-willed people. Not for me. I prided myself on my atheism and wanted nothing to do with Christianity. To me, God was a crutch for weak people and a figment of their imaginations. God was for people who needed to pretend that some force guided them through life. I made fun of those people for the longest time, until I had completely reached the end of my rope, desperate to cling to some kind of hope that offered help. I wanted love. I wanted someone strong and kind enough to step in and help me turn my life around.
That night, my atheism fell apart.
I wasn’t ready to fully surrender and give my life to Jesus, but I knew that I was deeply lost and in more trouble than I could get myself out of this time. I was a total failure on my own, and I needed something — Someone — to step in and take control. My mind opened a door that my heart had kept locked for a lifetime. And that tiny fragment of possibility was all God waited for. Events would soon unfold to lead me from this low valley to the path home — like the prodigal son. My Father watched and waited for me for a long, long time. I reached the end of my rope and realized that I couldn’t do life on my own anymore. I was lost and desperate. In this place where my story of surrender began, I knew that if I didn’t surrender it all, I would lose everything.
I made my bed in hell, and through every single moment of my life, God was there. I didn’t recognize Him, nor did I believe in or acknowledge His existence. But when I look back, I can clearly see the evidence of His protection and intervention in my darkest moments, when I thought I walked alone.
Looking for love and acceptance, I went from one toxic relationship to another. A constant tug-of-war in my soul pulled me between the me I wanted to be and the person I was becoming. When I was introduced to drugs, my life quickly spun out of control. One evening, I remember throwing rocks at my drug dealer’s window, pushing him to sell me drugs in the middle of the night because I had run out. He opened his window and yelled at me to go home. I was getting “out of control.” When your drug dealer tells you that you’re getting out of hand, you know you’ve got a major problem. I felt the battle raging inside of me. Even though I didn’t want to be the person I was becoming, I felt weak. It was like I could hear a voice inside me saying, Cristina, this is not who you are.
But the drugs always got the best of me; they lured me in every single time. The highs were the escape I longed for. They numbed the pain of my reality. When I was high, I felt happy and fulfilled. I had no problems. Everything was perfection — no sadness, no pain, no responsibilities, no fear, no shame — total escape.
I took prescription pills as if they were candy, wanting to get high and stay high. But the highs didn’t last and coming down off the drugs was like death. You feel like you’re dying, and you’d rather be dead. The highs were temporary, but the drugs created a lasting void on the inside. I was screaming for help. Can anyone hear me?
A voice inside my head kept saying, Cristina, this is not who you are. This is not what you really want. Get out of this life before it’s too late! But the desire to get high — the craving to escape the pain of my reality — spoke so much louder than that small voice, and I would always give in. My addictions took hold of me, and I lived to chase the high. Every single day.
I lived behind blinders of deception that God ripped off my mind the night that police officer arrested me. Never in a million years did I think I would be so grateful that he pulled me over that night. I thank God that I got arrested and went to jail. It saved my life.
It put me on the road that led me home.
Adapted from Hope in 60 Seconds: Encountering the God of the Impossible by Cristina Baker. Copyright © 2022 by Cristina Baker. Used with permission from Thomas Nelson.Thomasnelson.com
Cristina Baker is an author, who is passionate to see people encounter the love of God and find hope in his Son Jesus Christ. She has a deep desire for people to find victory and freedom through the power of prayer. Cristina resides in Austin, Texas, with her husband, Ryan, and their teenage son, Evan.