A Little Story with a Big Message
Mary rushed through the back door of the house where her family always came in, slammed her way too heavy dark purple bookbag down on the light oak wood floor just inside the doorway, and hurried to the den where she plopped dejectedly down onto the big plush brown suede sofa and proceeded to cry and cry some more.
She honestly felt that now that she was no longer holding back the tears that they would never come to an end. But of course they would just like they always did no matter how upset she was. And this time, she was really, really upset.
“What’s the matter, honey?” Mary’s mom Mrs. Darling called out from the kitchen where she had just finished baking three pans of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. “I thought you were going to stay after school and pray with your friends since in a matter of days summer vacation is starting and none of you have any plans as of yet for the next two and a half months.”
Mrs. Darling wiped her hands on a kitchen towel, picked up a plate stacked with numerous cookies, and walked into the den where she handed the plate to Mary.
Mary, who had finished the last of her outpouring of tears, took the plate, grabbed two still warm cookies off it, and set it down on the table in front of the couch.
“Thanks Mom,” she mumbled as she started into a cookie.
“Yum,” she pronounced aloud before she took another bite. “Thanks Mom. My favorite.”
She took a few bites, relished the sweetness of them on such a bitter afternoon, and proceeded to explain.
“I feel so alone sometimes these days Mom,” Mary started as her Mom came to sit beside her on the couch. “They’ve been my 5 closest friends for as long as I can remember. Now here we are juniors in high school, and everything is changing so fast.”
Mrs. Darling nodded as she listened. Her heart filled with empathy for her eldest daughter. Having 3 daughters and 2 sons with Mary being the eldest kept her busy at all times. Never a dull moment. Always something. Oh, the ups and downs of her children growing up. Especially in this day and age in which children being raised to love and follow the Lord Jesus Christ faced more temptations and challenges than ever it seemed to drift away from God.
Thank the Lord He was her anchor and gave her all the strength she needed to parent in this day and age. And thank the Lord for her beloved husband Joshua Darling who unlike so many of her friends’ husbands loved the Lord with every ounce of his heart and was committed to God to the utmost and to raising their children to be fully devoted to Him.
“My friends don’t want to pray together like we used to,” Mary said sadly. “We may be in public school, and the world may be fighting against talking about God, praying, and reading the Bible on school grounds. But we’ve always done it anyway right since we started high school.”
“Now my friends are becoming more and more interested in getting their nails done, going shopping, boys, boys, boys, parties they never would have gone to in the past, and some stuff I don’t even want to tell you, Mom. It’s just breaking my heart,” Mary said as she began to cry quietly again.
“Mom, I know there’s nothing wrong with some of this stuff. Some of it anyway. But it’s just that it seems to be taking over their lives.” Mary wiped at her eyes, grabbed the tissue her Mom handed her, and blew her nose. She sighed, considered eating some more of her mother’s delicious cookies, but decided she would rather talk more. Besides, she wanted to save her appetite for dinner knowing full well her mother would prepare one of her super delicious mid-week meals.
“I just wish we could go back to the way things were,” Mary said. “I dream of going on missions trips this summer and getting a job to raise money to give Bibles to kids in the inner city, and they dream about football games and who is having the next party when their parents go away. Things never used to be like this. They never used to be that way. I feel like they’re slipping away. Not just from me. But, Mom, from God Himself!”
“I’m so sorry, honey,” Mrs. Darling said, wrapping her arm around Mary’s thin suntanned shoulder for a few moments before she withdrew it.
“I want to study the Bible before school,” Mary continued. “And they want, well, Mom, it’s just that I can’t get enough of Jesus I love Him so incredibly unbelievably much. And I want to serve Him with all my heart!” Mary said passionately.
“This reminds me of what Jesus talks about in the Bible, Mom,” Mary said. “About how people left their first love. Jesus wasn’t their first love anymore, that’s how I understand it anyway.”
“Yes,” Mrs. Darling said. “Jesus says in the Bible, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love (Revelation 2:4 NKJV).” Then He says to repent. People who don’t have Jesus as number one in their lives need to change their priorities and make Him their first love!” Mrs. Darling exclaimed.
“I know Mom,” Mary said. “I’m so thankful you get it. But I want my friends to understand also!” Mary exclaimed. “They used to. What happened?”
“My friends don’t seem to love Jesus like they used to,” Mary said morosely. “And it makes me feel alone. Do you suppose there is something I can do to help them come back to Him and love Him the way they used to? And to want to serve Him like we all used to do together?”
Mary looked at her Mom with her big blue-green eyes filled with sorrow and desperation.
Mrs. Darling sighed, then smiled. Then she reached for a cookie and took a big delicious bite. Then she set the rest of the cookie down on a napkin on the table in front of them.
“I know Mom,” Mary smiled back at her Mom. “Let’s do what you always tell me to do when I’m upset.”
“Let’s pray,” they said as they grabbed each others’ hands, held on tightly as though for dear life, and began to pray.
Mary prayed first. Then her Mom prayed more. They didn’t stop until they felt as though God had reached His great big heavenly down from heaven and taken the sadness and burden off Mary’s shoulders.
Mary and her closest friends Jennifer, Katie, Isabel, Francesca, and Victoria sat around the campfire they had made on the beach as they sipped their milkshakes. They munched on their yummy s’mores, thoroughly enjoying the sweet sticky marshmallow on graham crackers. As they drank and ate, they talked and caught each other up on what they had been doing with their summer vacation so far.
Three of them worked together at Nell’s Diner waitressing and were making plenty of money given how busy the diner always was and how well people always tipped there.
Mary had gotten a job at a private Christian summer camp for special needs children hosted by a family with a super big property right on the oceanfront. She was spending lots of time studying the Bible when not at work and doing plenty of praying about whether God wanted her to go on any missions trips as she dreamed of doing one day.
Isabel was taking the summer off spending loads of time at the swimming pool working on her suntan, reading romance books and a few science fiction ones also, and “falling in love” with the beach lifeguards as she ran down the beach each day training for her senior year on the high school track team.
But while 4 out of 5 of the girls were super chatty as they described their summers thus far, Isabel was mostly quiet other than a few vague details about what she had been doing.
Mary had prayed for the girls day after day since summer had begun. She had decided with her mother’s encouragement not to push any of her friends to get closer to Jesus. She didn’t press them to read their Bibles. Nor did she bug them about praying together. Oh, sure, she had been tempted many times to do so.
But she figured she needed to let the Lord work on their hearts. She would simply keep praying. She had made a promise to the Lord she wouldn’t stop praying until she saw a change in her friends. So on and on – and on – she prayed.
“What’s up with you Isabel?” Francesca asked. “You don’t seem like yourself at all. I haven’t heard from you in weeks, and you seem really upset.”
Isabel looked away. Then she looked back at her friends. She said nothing. She looked down at her lap as the other girls stared at her.
“You okay, Isabel?” Victoria asked, nudging her with her elbow.
Katie tried next. “I haven’t heard from you either in a while,” she said. “You want to talk about anything?”
Mary noticed nobody mentioned praying like they would have in the past, but she kept her mouth shut.
Isabel remained silent.
“We’re not going to leave you alone until you confess up,” Francesca teased.
Katie laughed. “Yeah, confess up.”
All of a sudden Isabel looked up, stood up, and walked away from the campfire over to the public restroom. Her shoulders were visibly shaking.
The other four girls looked at each other a bit nervously.
“Maybe she’s laughing,” Victoria said light-heartedly. “She always is such a gamester.”
“I don’t think so,” Mary said. “I’m pretty sure she’s crying. I’ll go talk to her. My Mom’s coming to pick us all up in about 45 minutes. You all go ahead and eat the rest of the food. I’ll spend some time with Isabel.”
The other girls nodded in agreement.
Mary walked off to talk to Isabel.
“We’ve been on summer vacation for 6 weeks now,” Isabel said. “I wasn’t going to tell a single soul. Not ever. Not even any of you. My best friends for all these years. None of you were going to know.” She sniffled but held back the tears. She had had enough of the crying. She had done plenty of it on her own recently as she had held onto her secret for dear life.
Isabel sighed. “But I can’t hold it to myself anymore.”
Isabel looked down at her lap as she sat cross-legged on the ground beside Mary. Then she burst out sobbing. So much for holding back the tears. Now they came out like a flood, and she grabbed quickly in her satchel for tissues. She grabbed a hold of them, wiped her nose with one, then put down the extra tissues so she could take one and give her nose a good long blow.
“Want to talk?” Mary said quietly as she watched Isabel closely. “I don’t want to push you.” Mary would normally have put her arm around Isabel but felt she should refrain and give Isabel some space.
“There’s only one reason I’m telling you, Mary,” Isabel said when she finally looked up. “I know you’re the only one of our whole group who still is madly in love with Jesus and totally devoted to Him. I know you won’t tell anyone but Him. And He already knows. And He’s the only one who can help me. And it’s because I turned my back on Him that all this has happened.”
Isabel set the tissue down, took a deep breath, and looked directly at Mary. If she was going to tell, she thought to herself, she might as well look Mary in the eyes and get it over with.
Mary encouraged Isabel to keep talking. “I’m here to listen,” Mary said, thinking in her heart how day after day she had prayed to God that somehow He would bring her friends back to Him. Back to being totally devoted to Him like all 5 of them had been going all the way back to being little girls.
“Whatever it takes, God,” Mary had prayed to God time and again. “I don’t want anything bad to happen to my sweet friends. But if it takes something big and hard for them to see how much they need you and to commit themselves to you totally like they need to and like they were before, okay. I put my trust in you, Lord,” she had prayed. Not just once, but many a time.
“Of all the boys I thought I’d fallen in love with this summer, Mary,” Isabel said, “There was one that really stood out to me. I should have known none of it was love anyway. God didn’t lead me to any of them. I was just so attracted to them. One of them especially. You never met him. He is new in town. But I was warned about him. By a bunch of people. And even by God. I had a dream one night, I so believe it was from God. Telling me to come back to Him. Not to go to the boy.”
“I knew the boy didn’t believe in God, Mary,” Isabel confessed to her friend. “And I know God doesn’t want us to date or one day marry a man if the boy doesn’t believe in Jesus. But I convinced myself I would be the one to tell this guy about Jesus and he would become totally sold out to God. I was so, so wrong,” Isabel said.
Mary looked at Isabel who could barely look back at her now. Clearly Isabel was ashamed.
Isabel looked down at her lap again, then up again at Mary. She made herself keep her eyes on Mary’s sweet gentle face.
“You’ve stood out in my mind since before summer vacation even started Mary,” Isabel said. “So many temptations as we get older to get distracted from God. But He’s always your first love no matter what. You never drift from Him. You just love Him so much. You’re such a powerful example. Sometimes I feel a bit jealous. Sometimes resentful. Then I go back to feeling the right way. Inspired. Encouraged. But I fell. I fell so hard. Away from God. And to the boy. Into temptation. I was like you Mary until I got distracted. I didn’t just stop reading my Bible. I didn’t just stop praying. Worst of all, I decided the boy was more important to me than God. My love for the boy was bigger than my love for God even though I look back and see it wasn’t love at all. The devil tempted me, and I fell. Oh Mary!”
Mary smiled at her friend. “Jesus is the love of my life,” Mary said softly. “He used to be yours, and He can be again.”
Mary figured Isabel would agree, then they could pray together, and this little conversation would be a thing of the past.
But evidently Isabel wasn’t done talking.
Isabel took a deep breath, sighed, then decided it was time. She had to say it. She just had to. Sure, the truth would be more real than ever once she said it aloud. But she knew she needed to. She would not be able to turn back to God as she truly desperately wanted to do if she kept the secret any longer.
“I was raped,” Isabel blurted out.
“I’m not pregnant,” Isabel said quickly. “This isn’t about me getting an abortion. But it’s about me being raped. Because I went against God. I was with someone I shouldn’t have been with doing something I shouldn’t have been doing.”
Mary took a deep breath. Tears came to her eyes.
“Oh Isabel!” Mary said. She didn’t know what to say. So she decided to go on listening instead.
“You know how the Bible talks about God being a shelter, a refuge, a hiding place, the secret place for His kids? And how we can be under the shelter, the shadow, of His wings? Well, I rebelled against God and went out from His shelter. And no matter how hard I try to get better from what happened, I just feel worse and worse.”
Mary wiped a bunch of tears from her own eyes. She was heartbroken for her friend.
“He’s in jail now, Mary,” Isabel said. “Not just because of me. But because of the others he raped also. And I knew all along I was going against God. I just wanted to be loved. But I didn’t get it. The love I need is God’s love, and if He wants to pick a man one day for me to love and marry, then that’s His choice. Not mine. Oh, Mary. Please will you pray for me?”
Mary and Isabel cried together for a few minutes. Then Isabel moved over to where Mary sat on the ground, and together they held on to each other. They squeezed each other tight, and their tears fell onto each other’s shoulders.
Isabel felt relieved to share the burden with her dear beloved friend, and Mary felt relieved that Isabel despite the unbelievable trauma she had endured knew in her heart she needed Jesus and to love Him above all and everything else.
When they let go of each other and moved back from each other, Isabel had more to say.
“I know the rape itself wasn’t my fault. I know rape is never the fault of the victim no matter what!” Isabel said strongly to her beloved friend. “But I can’t stop thinking about how upset God is at me for getting involved with the guy in the first place and doing stuff I shouldn’t have done before I was raped.”
“Isabel, you’ve asked God to forgive you, right? And to heal you? And comfort you?”
Isabel looked surprised. “I can’t!” she exclaimed.
“Of course you can! And you must!” Mary said emphatically. “That’s the starting place. When God shows us we have hurt Him, that we’ve broken His heart, that we’ve rejected Him and rebelled against Him, that we’ve turned our backs to Him, we need to seek His forgiveness for any and all sins, and return to Him!”
“But not with a sin this bad!” Isabel cried out.
“Sweet friend, no matter the sin, we must return to God! When He sent His only Son Jesus to the cross to die to pay our sin penalty and to raise Him from the dead, Jesus died for all our sins! Our job is to humble ourselves, believe He is Lord and died on the cross and was raised from the dead, and turn to God and His ways!”
“Then God forgives us, gives us a forever relationship with Himself, and His Holy Spirit comes to live in us! Then we learn day by day how to love and worship and follow and obey and glorify Him each and every day and forever! You already know that Isabel. You turned to Jesus long ago, but then you turned away. Now you need to turn back!”
Isabel looked over at Mary.
“Will He really take me back?” Isabel said ever so quietly.
“He wants you back, Isabel! And He wants to love you, to comfort you, to heal you, and to teach you how to live for Him and bring Him joy and honor and praise and glory and enjoy Him as your Lord and Savior and heavenly Father and husband and best friend forever and ever, dear Isabel!” Mary declared. “He will forgive you as soon as you return to Him. With a heart to truly love and obey Him.”
“Oh, this is the best news imaginable!” Isabel said joyfully. “There is hope for me! I can have a fresh start! I want Jesus to be my first love again! And I want to learn how to live right even when temptations come! Oh, Mary, pray with me!”
By the time the other girls walked over to Mary and Isabel so they would be ready when Mary’s mother drove up to drive them all home, Mary and Isabel had prayed. Isabel had returned her heart and life to the Lord. Her face was filled with joy. Mary couldn’t have been any more delighted than to see one of her closest friends come back to living wholeheartedly for the Lord. And she was thrilled to see that God had heard her cries.
Sure her heart broke for Isabel and what she had been through, but she was so incredibly thankful that God had given her an opportunity to help lead a lost sheep back to the Good Shepherd sweet Jesus.
As for her other friends, she trusted God would work on their hearts also. Though she was certain God’s will had not been for her friend to get raped, she knew God can work through any and all circumstances to draw people to Himself so they will forever follow Him.
Summer vacation was not yet over, and the Lord only knew what was yet to come. She had no sense if the girls would once again gather to pray and study the Bible like in so many times past whether it be this summer vacation or sometime in the future. No, only God knew the future.
But she knew without a shadow of a doubt that the most important thing she could ever possibly do going forward no matter her life’s circumstances would be to keep Jesus as her first love, to be totally devoted to the Lord and to read her Bible faithfully and learn to live by it, and to continue to pray and pray and pray never ever ceasing to pray whether for her friends or for anyone God placed on her heart to pray for and concerning any and all issues all around the world God wanted her to pray about. Oh, yes, she would pray!
Mary’s Mom picked them up that night and drove them back to Mary’s house for a delicious late dinner of barbeque chicken, roasted squash and zucchini, a big salad with fresh vegetables from the community garden, homemade corn bread, and, of course, the girls’ favorite, mint chocolate chip ice cream with peanut butter chips decorating the top.
MESSAGE: If God has put someone or some people on your heart to pray for, no matter how absolutely impossible the situation seems, put your faith in God and keep praying, praying, praying for as long and often as God leads you to pray. God can do the impossible. No matter how God chooses to answer our prayers, we must be humble and faithful in fulfilling His will as His Holy Spirit who lives inside His followers leads us to pray. Pray, pray, and keep on praying!
“pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV
“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ “ Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”” Luke 18:1-8 NKJV
“”I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.” Revelation 2:2-5 NKJV
“I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings…” Psalms 61:4 NKJV
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