Preface from Jodi: There is nothing I love more than watching God work in the lives of women in the jail. I asked Christina if she would share her testimony, and she graciously agreed to do that. I pray you will be touched by the story of God’s redemption in the life of this woman, and give God all the praise.
“He made my dream come true”
The testimony of Christina Martinez, Prisoner #14-00844
Since I was a very young girl, I’ve had a dream. A dream that in all these passing years has never changed. Through the sexual abuse that began at the age of 5, through the heartache and shame of becoming pregnant at the age of 12, through growing up in an addicted home… through the self-inflicted pain of loving the wrong people and living for all the wrong things… through all of my chaos and madness, I’ve had one dream. One seemingly untouchable childish dream, that I’ve always believed would some day come true.
My name is Christina Martinez. I am 35 years old, and have been in and out of prison, jails and institutions for most of my life. I am currently incarcerated at the Dona Ana County Detention Center, facing 15 years for armed robbery. I’ve been here for 9 months now… and I can vividly remember the mess I was when I arrived. Angry, afraid, lost, high out of my mind on black tar heroin, and my only worry was “kicking” the habit that I had been battling since the age of 11.
I was 11 years old when I received my first “fix”. A close family member promised me that it would “take away all of the pain”. So I closed my eyes, prepared myself for the prick of the needle, and within moments the devil’s poison had seeped through my veins, causing my entire body, mind and soul to go numb. Numb from the sexual abuse that was taking place all too often, numb from the hurt I would feel each time my beautiful mother would come home, staggering drunk at 2:00 a.m., numb from the guilt I always felt when my parents would argue, yell and scream. So many uglies to be numb from, all the while I would cling to a dream that took me to a better place in my mind, all the while praying to a God that I doubted even existed.
So there I was again, all these years later, being booked in to jail, all the while knowing that “this was it.” I called my mother, and with every ounce of hurt, anger and utter disappointment she yelled “Do not call me ever again – there’s nothing I can do for you”! I was defeated. I’d let my family down again. I’d broken my promises to my kids as usual. And even though in the past, using my abusive past had helped me to justify my criminal behavior and my maddening addiction, I could not give excuses any more. I had run out of excuses. I couldn’t create any more stories or tell any more lies.
In late January of 2014 I was laying in a boat (temporary bed) under a staircase in jail, rocking myself back and forth. I do that in an attempt to comfort the physical pains caused by the effects of not having my drug. A silver haired woman walked into the dayroom like she belonged here. I had never seen her before. I didn’t know her name, nor did I care. I only knew that she had a beautiful peace about herself… one that I myself had never experienced. When a person is blessed with a spirit of peace, it is undeniable to the naked eye. It cannot be faked… it’s not something that someone can pretend. It’s just there. The woman’s name is Ms. Jodi, and when she came into the dayroom that day, ministering the Word of God, with all of her beautiful peace, I was as a grumpy old troll under the bridge… rolling my eyes, sucking my teeth in, wishing she would hurry up and leave. I didn’t want to hear about her Jesus. I didn’t believe He loved me at all.
I tried to block out whatever she was saying, but two of her statements lingered inside of me after she left. “No one is good, not even one” (Romans 3:10). Ms. Jodi was explaining that God’s love remains faithful… it’s us who wander astray. “We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are, or what we have done”. (Romans 3:22) This blew my mind. I froze. My heart began to pound, and for the first time in my life, I felt hope.
I requested a Bible from the Chaplain, and these two Scriptures were the first ones I went to. That silver haired lady wasn’t lying! The very words she had ministered to us that day were right there in God’s Word.
My salvation didn’t take place in front of a bunch of people. There wasn’t a huge audience with other people sharing their tears as I said a sinners prayer. I surrendered myself to the Lord while naked in the shower, craving the cold comfort of that needle and its poison inside, with memories of my past flashing in my mind, and the sound of my children’s laughter echoing in the distance. I could taste bile rising up inside my throat, the cause of all my guilt and shame. I reflected on the dream I’ve had since I was a little girl, and tears just fell down my face, blending with the water that was falling on my body. I cried for all the times I hadn’t allowed myself to cry. I cried for the children I had abandoned, that may never know how much I truly love them. I cried for the man who took my childhood, and for my mother who was abused too. I cried so much, because I wanted to die so badly and I’d never even truly lived. There I was, in a shower located not far from the other female inmates, crying my eyes out. I told Jesus everything. I told Him I was mad. I told Him I was scared. I told Him that I didn’t know how to love, or how to believe. And I told Him how messed up in the head I was. He already knew all of this, He knows everything about me. He even knows about that dream of mine.
“When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable and I groaned all day long. Day and night Your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Psalm 32:3-4
I couldn’t hide, I couldn’t lie, and I couldn’t place the blame on anyone else. No longer could I resist my absolute need to surrender. I had surrendered to my addiction over and over, only to come out more beaten, broken and used than the time before. I had surrendered to men, who I thought loved me and accepted me just as I was, only to find out that once they had drained me of all I (as a woman) could give, they no longer wanted me. I had surrendered to Satan’s lie that I would never amount to anything but a drug addict and a whore. But that lie couldn’t resonate inside my mind, because remember… that day under the staircase, the “grumpy old troll” (me)… felt hope.
“Finally I confessed all my sins to You and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself ‘I will confess my rebellion to the Lord! And You forgave me! All of my guilt is gone!” Psalm 32:5
As the water fell on my body, and my tears ran down my face, I confessed all the things I’d held inside for all too long. I surrendered… and Jesus, with His open, loving, forgiving arms, received me just as I am. I slept such a peaceful sleep that night. No nightmares, no cold sweats. Peaceful, uninterrupted sleep.
I cannot say that my salvation has rid me of every struggle. Being saved didn’t come with a “get out of jail free” card. My salvation didn’t remove every “fleshly” thought or each “worldly” desire. I struggle daily with the sadness I feel about failing my children and my family. And, I still must be held accountable for the crimes I’ve committed.
Surrendering my life to the Lord has, however, made coping much easier. Forgiveness is a gift that I find myself seeking more and more. Not so much for my own self, for I am confident in the Lord’s forgiveness for me. More so, that I gain the genuine desire to forgive those who have hurt me. My salvation has caused me to see everything from an entirely different set of eyes.
I have learned that prayer must be intimate and honest. I have learned that obedience is essential to my Christianity, and this remains a struggle for me. As I grow in Jesus Christ… my “fleshly” ways become a little easier to resist. I know now there is so much to gain throughout our suffering, and our suffering is nothing compared to share He endured when He was crucified on Calvary.
I lie here in this cell contemplating so much of this life that I’ve lived. The sexual abuse, the heroin, the voices inside my head, the children that I wanted so badly but left behind because I was so afraid to make a mess of them. I think about my momma… my beautiful mother that God gave me to pass through, and how I’ve used all of her hurts and pains and vices to justify holding on to my own. I reflect on my husband I loved so much, who hurt me so badly, and left me wondering whether he ever truly loved me at all? I think about the voice I have, and the ability I have to express myself, whether through a song or a poem I’ve written. I thank God that He gave me the desire to seek Him through all of my uncertainty, because I have faith that He will use me for His good purposes.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” Romans 8:28
As a small child, music has been my avenue of escape. I was quick to catch and memorize a tune, or create a melody. Singing came very naturally to me, and as often as I could I would grab my mother’s hairbrush and run off to a bathroom mirror. The bathtub being my stage. I’d watch myself in the reflection of the mirror, pretending to be a star. I’d go off in my mind, visualizing my fairy tale of life. When I was a little girl… oh how I remember this as if it were only yesterday…
I was lying down on my twin bed, eyes closed, hand on my heart, listening to Whitney Houston belt out her song “The Greatest Love Of All”. I sang the words with my childhood hero as if we’d written that song together! I dreamt of being a singer-songwriter when I grew up. I told myself that one day a young girl would be singing my song… my words. God is SO good. He knows no limits! He has no impossibilities! God knows our hearts, our deepest desires. He knows those sweet, beautiful childhood dreams. God knows exactly what He is doing.
Since I’ve been saved, I’ve begun writing beautiful songs to the Lord. So much healing has taken place inside of me, and in spite of the fact that I’m locked up facing 15 years in prison, I don’t feel locked up at all. I’m free inside of me. Free from the self-doubt, the insecurities… free from the bondage of addiction… free from all that anger I had kept bottled up for so long. The Lord has blessed me in so many ways, and I am honored each time I’m given the opportunity to sing my songs or share my writings with another. I’m blessed when I’m able to lead someone to the Lord.
A friend of mine, a young girl who is here in jail with me… she has the gift of music. I was watching her the other day. Women were playing cards at the table, television was blaring full blast, and one lady was exchanging words on the phone. But my little friend was lying in her bed, eyes closed, hand over her heart… she was singing song. A song that I wrote! Tuning out everything and everyone around her, she went away with Jesus and my song. Tears of happiness streamed down my face… because of the genuine transformation taking place inside of me at the hands of the Lord, I was able to receive my blessing!
Watching her sing a song I had written, feeling each and every one of my words, relating to my hurt, anger, pain… and the God given peace that has come in working with God to heal these wounds that once hindered and even paralyzed me, praise God, my Lord and Savior… King of all kings – because at that moment, my dream… had come true!
Click on the link to read Christina’s poem My Spiritual Warfare.