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“Happily Ever After”

This week’s Salvation Story was prompted when the Lord reminded me of my dear friend Mara, who was a young woman who I asked to go home and speak to the Lord about her salvation while she was alone like I mentioned in Monica’s Salvation Story. Rather than asking anyone to ever “repeat after me” I’ve always believed that it’s important that the person speaks to Him directly. In addition, I’m careful to make sure I’m listening to the Lord throughout the entire process, who is leading and speaking through me. Such was the case with Mara.

Rather than having her pray at all with me where we were talking, I asked her to just go home, get in her very large walk-in closet and begin to speak, then listen, to the Lord that would change everything in her life. The proof that someone has met the Lord face-to-face is WHEN you see the person again and their face is glowing and later everyone notices that they are an entirely NEW person—clearly, they’ve been Born Again, which is exactly what happened to Mara.

Thinking back I can’t remember the first time I met Mara. She was around the theme park that her family owned, and since the Lord blessed our family with making the commercials for a period of three years, we saw her very often to the point of us becoming friends. I do remember the first day I came to her home, not at all the mansion I’d expected that an “heiress” would live in. Instead, it was a very modest house, but it was decorated beautifully. While visiting Mara, she shared her most recent heartbreak. The emphasis was on her father who had stopped the marriage just a week before it was to take place, after finding out about the lie that this man had hidden, like at least two prior marriages and even a daughter that was Mara’s age.

Mara’s father was clearly wise enough to realize that this man (and the two fiancés before) were marrying her for her money, and like any father, he knew he had to protect her. Yet Mara didn’t feel protected. No matter how kindly anyone tried to convince her this was her father’s motivation. I often thought of how many ways our heavenly Father gets in the way of what we believe would lead to our happiness; Him knowing the heartache that what we wanted would cause later on if He didn’t step in and thwart our plans.

What I shared with Mara that afternoon apparently was different than what others had offered her. Coming from the position of being His bride, it was easy for me to explain to Mara that she’d never find any happiness even if her true prince charming showed up on a white horse. Instead, it would be found in her relationship with the Lord. Funny thing was, like everyone else, I assumed she knew the Lord personally mostly due to her family who often entertained some of the most world renown men and women of God in their own homes. Many were very close friends of the family and Mara. Yet it wasn’t until really getting to know and love Mara for a very long time that I finally realized she’d never met the Lord personally.

Again, I am not sure what prompted this realization, but the moment the light went on and I realized this, I do remember asking Mara to meet me for coffee. And it was during our conversation when I began asking her a few questions, which she answered not as someone who knew the Lord but instead answering them with dates and events. Like the day she was confirmed and other religious milestones. When I asked my final question, prompted by the Lord (which may be why I don’t remember what I asked), she said, “I don’t understand what you’re asking.” To which I replied, “I know, you don’t understand. Mara, though you’ve been around Christians all your life, and many people who probably claimed to be, you’ve never really ‘met’ Him. And until you have that experience, you’ll never understand fully what you’ve been missing.”

“So I’d like you to go home, go into your gorgeous bedroom closet (by this time she’d moved to a new home) and while there, just begin talking and asking the Lord questions. You can close your eyes or have them open, but trust me, the Lord will be right there, and if you sit quietly, you’ll hear Him speak to you, probably in your heart, not necessarily in a voice or even a whisper.”

Mara did just as I had suggested, and when she called me, she barely could speak, instead, she simply wept tears of joy. A few minutes later she tried very hard to explain what had happened, but I assured her she didn’t need to explain because I understood. All I could do was smile like I’m doing now thinking about it.

My work was not over, however. Soon after we spoke, the Lord prompted me to explain to Mara that she needed to go down to the front of our church (that we both attended) during the next altar call.

Now before you get it into your head that this is something you needed to do or something you need to get others to do. Stop and listen. Each and every salvation story is as unique and special as each person who experiences salvation. In Mara’s situation, God knew this was important. I didn’t know how or why it was important, but throughout every interaction with Mara, I was tuned into and sensitive to the Lord’s leading—which is why I said earlier this was important to let Him take over.

Yet, even though Mara agreed, each Sunday Mara failed to walk forward during the altar call until several weeks later. That Sunday the sermon was on stepping out of your comfort zone and taking the additional steps needed to do the extraordinary. So when the altar call began, I turned toward Mara to motion her to go down. But she kept her eyes averted from mine, so I had to get up out of my seat (and comfort zone), walk back a few rows, and then begin to quietly call to her. Finally, her dad tapped her shoulder, so she turned with panic on her face, but began moving towards me so together we went forward arm-in-arm. The moment she crossed the threshold, she began to weep and then went to the altar room with the others.

Afterwards, I told her she again wasn’t done, but her next step was to be baptized. Again, let me reiterate that only IF the Lord prompts you or whomever He reaches down to save, should take this step and be baptized. So don’t add any type of “works” to this intimate relationship any more than you would to a marriage between a husband and a wife. Each relationship is unique and what is important is their commitment to one another that trumps any religious or relational gesture.

When being baptized in the megachurch (I attended at the time), each participant is asked to share their short salvation story, which is videotaped and played as they’re walking into the water and are baptized. Mara’s testimony didn’t only shock everyone watching and listening, most importantly, her parents were horrified. Nevertheless, it also had to be one of the most powerful salvation stories that got everyone to their feet with loud applause (to the Lord).

That evening Mara shared that even though she and everyone she knew believed her to be saved and a Christian, she had never experienced Him herself. Her voice broke and tears streamed down her face when she spoke of the love that enveloped her and filled her full of self-worth. She told of her almost successful suicide attempts (one leaving her disfigured) and due to this, along with her money, she was easy prey to men because she just wanted to be loved.

Though her parents and I had been close friends prior to this day, they were hurt and I’m sure felt a bit betrayed and exposed due to what I had been called to do to help Mara find Him. Yet, all was obviously forgotten when my family and I were given a place of honor the day Mara married the man of her dreams, Keith, about a year later.

Keith was a pastor for Teen Challenge, who also battled drug addiction and other vices, which allowed him to love Mara in an understanding way, and with the Lord’s love not just as a man. Keith was romantic, kind, and a perfect match since he cared little about Mara’s money. In fact, her money simply allows them to go on many missions retreats to find good soil to help sow Mara’s and her entire family’s money. I know because my son Easton was on one of the trips when, as a couple, they went to Haiti with Convoy of Hope. As I’d already heard from many others, Keith was “real” and “genuine” and so loving to everyone—especially Mara. Their missions trips slowed down a couple of years after they married when they welcomed their new baby, but I don’t believe their ministry as a couple will ever slow down for long.

As a side note, Mara was tutored through A Wise Woman earlier in the same year she met Keith. Not by me; I had no knowledge about it. A mutual friend, Marcy, who’d also had befriended Mara for years became her older woman. Marcy explained at Mara’s wedding that she was paying me back for saving her son’s marriage. Apparently, Marcy’s daughter-in-law was in the process of divorcing her son, and while visiting with the granddaughter, Marcy had been reading through her Wise Woman workbook that was sitting on the kitchen table. Marcy’s DIL asked if she could borrow a WW, and then called the next day to say she’d stopped the divorce.

Ten month’s later Marcy said she was holding a new restoration baby in her arms. So when given the opportunity, Marcy began meeting with Mara to go through a WW and I believe it helped to make Keith and Mara’s marriage as wonderful as it is today.