“It sounds crazy, but many sweet things happened while I was in jail. It was hard, but I look at it as a very precious time because God and I were working together.” – Carmen
“When the police knocked on my door, I knew they were going to take me to jail,” said Carmen Hobbs. “My history of drinking and rebellion finally caught up with me. I quickly tracked down someone to care for my children. Soon I was in the back of a squad car, not knowing what would happen next.
“I spent years finding my identity in men and alcohol. I did whatever it took to keep a man’s love, foolishly thinking I needed a man to feel worthy.
“My struggle with depression began early, and by 14 I’d already tried to commit suicide. Later I turned to alcohol to cope with depression, my father’s violence and the difficulties of moving from Mexico to the U.S. Drinking gave me confidence – suddenly I was six feet tall.
“At 17, I was raped by a friend’s uncle. When I told my family, they blamed me. Was it the way I dressed? Was I out too late? Those questions were swept under the rug, and I was told to deal with it and keep going. I couldn’t understand why the Lord allowed this pain. I decided there were people the Lord was more interested in than me. I wasn’t good enough anyway, so why would God want to hear from me?
“From failed relationships and violent arguments to family conflict and car crashes, there’s no area of my life that alcohol and idolizing men didn’t ruin. I’d disappear for days, and my children sometimes had to play the mommy role.
“I was used to lying to my family about alcohol, so after the arrest I lied to the judge, too. The truth came out when the district attorney’s office contacted my family. My children were scared of me and my family didn’t know what to do. I needed help.
“While I was in jail my daughter, Miranda, would ask her brothers and sisters to circle up and pray for me. Sometimes they wouldn’t want to, but she would remind them that God hears us when we pray. Even when everyone else gave up, Miranda continued to ask God to help me get better.
“In hopes of being released sooner, I asked to be placed in the jail’s F Pod, which offered a Christian program for inmates. The women there read the Bible and went to church. I wanted no part of it.
“I noticed how happy the women from Watermark were when they taught in F Pod each week. I learned that I didn’t have to clean up to come to Christ, who died for 100 percent of our sins. Jesus had the free gift of grace (Ephesians 2:8-9), and I simply needed to accept it to be saved.
“Sometimes bad weather would keep people from serving at F Pod, but those Watermark ladies were there no matter what. If they were willing to help us regardless of the weather outside, maybe Jesus was there for me no matter what my heart looked like.
“I got my first Bible when I was in jail, so rather than playing cards, I started reading God’s Word. As Scripture got into my heart, things seemed clearer. I read about the Israelites’ captivity and about God redeeming them and giving them a new purpose. The night I was ready to surrender to God’s will, I cried so much I felt like I ran out of tears. The next morning, I felt like I’d been cleansed. I asked the Lord to take my burdens away, and I felt like He was fulfilling that request.
“It sounds crazy, but many sweet things happened while I was in jail. It was hard, but I look at it as a very precious time because God and I were working together. When I was released, I went to an addiction recovery program and also came to church at Watermark on Sundays, and our biblical recovery ministry, re:generation, on Mondays. One Sunday, my family asked me to come with them to Watermark. I had no idea how my kids knew about this place, but they’d actually been coming here with my sister while I was in jail.
“One night as the kids and I were leaving the church, they recognized a woman in the lobby. As they ran to give her a hug, I recognized her face. The same woman who had been discipling me in jail also had been caring for my children here at Watermark. I was speechless.
“God had been taking care of my children better than I ever could. The Lord put me in Bible Boot Camp (that’s what I call jail) so I could learn to trust Him. He put my children around people who loved and discipled them. God prepared me to ask for their forgiveness as He was preparing the kids to forgive me. Obviously Jesus never left us for a moment.
“God has used everything from community with other believers to Equipped Disciple classes to change my heart. I used to think God was unreachable. I know now that Jesus will never leave or forsake me. (Hebrews 13:5-6) I am willing to surrender to His will, not because I have to, but because I want to please Him.
“Every time I think about my past, I see how much God has transformed my life. God showed grace and mercy when He sent His Son to die on the cross for me. Only a God who loves and cares for me would make such a sacrifice. Why wouldn’t I trust Him?”