• Mara Petro

The Problem Was Me

Updated: Apr 26, 2020

A Story of Relentless Love and Unworthy Redemption.

They said, “We can take care of your problem,” but they didn’t realize the problem was me, not my unborn baby.

I don’t remember the year or even my exact age; just that I was young, single, hopelessly lost, eleven weeks pregnant, and terrified.

What am I going to do?! I didn’t have any supportive family or friends. I didn’t love or want to marry the father. I couldn’t tell my parents. It would be just one more thing they would hold over me. I had no means to take care of a baby. I was a wreck of a human being making all kinds of bad decisions. How did I get here? I need help, but where, who?

I grew up in an abusive home. My father was a raging alcoholic and my mom, God love her, was the classic enabler. She tried her best though, to protect my brothers and me. Most of my childhood memories are filled with violence, fear, survival, and looking for escape. We went to church occasionally. We were baptized as babies, and went through confirmation classes, but we certainly were not Christians and I didn’t have a clue about life or what real love was.

When I was fifteen my parents let me go out on my first date. I was so excited because he was the cutest most popular boy in school, and it was a way of escape. He was sixteen and had his own car. When he showed up at the house my parents greeted him and then sent us on our way. That was the first time they had met him. It didn’t strike me as odd back then, only now. What kind of parents send their fifteen-year-old daughter out on a date with a boy they didn't even know? I certainly wouldn’t do that to my daughter if I had one. And this is why: We didn’t go on a date. He just took me to his parents’ house, to his big lavish bedroom and had his way with me. At the time I didn’t really mind. He was so flattering and so into me. It felt great to be so desired. He loved that I was a virgin and he got to be my first. I certainly wasn’t his first though and I soon found out I wouldn’t be his last. When I got home my parents never really asked much about the date, and “my first” never spoke to me again. That was the beginning of my pitiful search for love in all the wrong places and in all the wrong people.

When I was about twenty or twenty-one, I was living on my own and working as a dental assistant. One-night driving home from work my car broke down. It was raining hard and the area I lived in was built in a river bed, so during hard rains some areas would get flooded. Yeah, I know, who builds homes in a river bed, and why would anyone live there? That’s California for ya. In Fashion Valley there is an underpass I had to drive through to get home. There was some rising water underneath the bridge, but I saw other cars making it through, so I thought I could. Wrong. My little Volkswagen Rabbit just died right there in the middle of the rising stream. Fortunately, a very kind couple stopped to pick me up and took me to a gas station, so I could call for help. Those were the days before cellphones.

When I got to the gas station I went straight to the pay phone. There was a bench next to it. I plopped my purse down on the bench to get some change to call my parents. No answer. Called a friend. No answer. Needed more change so I went back to digging in the bottom of my purse on the bench. Suddenly, I felt someone behind me grab between my legs. I jumped, turned around and screamed all at the same time. There was a man standing right in front of my face glaring at me with the most devious smirk. Behind him were four other men leaning up against a car, also glaring at me. I yelled some rather foul names at him and demanded that he leave me alone. He backed off and I thought it was over. I turned back to the phone booth to make another call. A friend answered, and I told him what happened. He said I should call the police. So, I hung up to call them, but the man came back. For the next, what seemed like an hour, I don’t remember how long, this man grabbed me everywhere, saying all kinds of crude things to me, trying to pull me away from the phone, but I kept fighting him off and screaming for help. His buddies just watched and urged him on. He kept telling me that he was going to rape me, and no one would help me. Somehow, I was able to break free of his grip, pick up the phone and call 9-1-1, but just after they answered, and I was telling them what was happening, he came up right next to me, and hung up the phone saying, “No one is going to help you bit - -.” The phone went dead. They were gone. He hung up on the cops! It was the most sick and terrifying feeling. No one was going to help me and he’s going to kill me. I screamed, kicked, punched and cried out for help but no one did. The people getting gas stopped for a moment to look, then left. The gas station attendant looked out the window at me. I cried, begging him to help me but he didn’t. I was terrified. I was starting to believe he was right, and he might do what he was threatening.

Then, the police showed up. Three cop cars and several policemen came rushing to my rescue. All five men scattered like cockroaches, but the police caught them all. To this day, I love anyone in law enforcement. They have saved me more than once in my life.

The man who attacked me was charged with sexual assault, and after a painful embarrassing ordeal in court, he was convicted and sent to jail, but the others were let go. The gas station was fined for not helping me, and for illegally employing the man who assaulted me. Justice was served in my case, but I slumped into a deep depression after that.

I hated the man who attacked me, and I hated the people who wouldn’t help me even more. I couldn’t understand how they could just ignore my cries for help. How could they just watch and do nothing? There was only one friend who was there for me that night. The one and only person I was able to reach on the phone, who told me to call the police. He showed up the same time as the police, because he was a former police officer. He soon became my “hero” and we began dating. But, like most relationships born out of extreme circumstances, it didn’t last long. The one and only time we had sex I got pregnant.

What am I going to do? I didn't love or want to marry him. He’s not my hero after all. I can’t tell my parents. I had no means of taking care of a baby. I was a wreck of a human being making all kinds of bad decisions. I need help, but where, who?

Planned Parenthood. They would know what to do. They can help me. So I thought. I was sadly the epitome of young and dumb, so hopelessly lost, and terrified.

I went to the clinic. They ran their tests and told me I was eleven weeks pregnant. I told them my sad story and how scared I was. They said, “We can take care of your problem,” but they didn’t realize that the problem was me, not my unborn baby. At some point I remember hearing that it was just a blob of tissue, so I allowed myself to think that it was okay, and I would be fine. But it wasn’t, and I certainly wasn’t. My “hero” paid for the abortion.

Years later, I came to realize the magnitude of what I had done. I was married at age twenty-four, to a nice young man who shared the gospel with me. I was a radical born-again believer in Jesus Christ, living a completely different and happy life. I once was lost but I was found and saved by God’s amazing grace, and I realized that the love I was looking for all along was Jesus. Then it hit me.

I heard a woman talk of being raped and getting pregnant from it. But instead of abortion she chose life and adoption for her baby. Twenty years later her daughter found her, and they have a beautiful loving relationship. Both Christians, testifying of God’s goodness and advocating pro-life no matter the circumstances of the pregnancy. It felt like a ton of bricks just fell on me and I began to weep uncontrollably realizing what I had done. I wasn’t raped but I had an abortion. Adoption never entered my thinking and it should have because my mother did it when she got pregnant at sixteen. I couldn’t grasp the thought of being pregnant in my circumstances. I chose the death of my baby to preserve my own life. Even though it was a mess. God forgive me, I cried! God have mercy on me, I wailed! And He did forgive me, and He did have mercy on me, and He reminded me that the blood of Jesus washed my sins as white as snow, including the sin of my abortion. In that moment I was healed and redeemed and given new purpose in life. I forgave the man who attacked me and the people who wouldn’t help me and I dedicated my life to sharing the gospel.

Not long after that my husband and I went into the ministry. We had our one and only wonderful son whom we named Zachary which means “God remembers” because God remembered my prayers. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to have children. I thought I didn’t deserve them because I aborted my first one. I longed and prayed for five years for a second chance to do things right by the Lord and He gave it to me. Those who have been forgiven much, love much. I dedicated Zach to the Lord while he was in my womb and once he was born I read to him and taught him the Bible until he could read it for himself. Now, as a grown man, serving in ministry, he teaches the Bible to others. God truly is merciful and abounding in love.

Life was great for the next several years. My husband, son and I moved to Montana to plant a church and God blessed it tremendously. We had a thriving ministry. I loved Montana and I loved my little family. Thought we would never leave. Then after seven beautiful years, 9/11 happened, and our lives were forever changed.

My husband went into the military and after a couple moves we were transferred to Okinawa, Japan. It was scary and exciting at the same time. It was a three-year adventure that I bravely embraced. During that time though, our marriage began to deteriorate rapidly. We had already been struggling since he joined the military, but I thought it was manageable. Okinawa was the beginning of the end of us. We had been arguing constantly, growing further and further apart, and adding to the pain and despair of my crumbling marriage, my son Zach went through puberty and didn’t seem to need me anymore. After hearing my husband say that he was miserably unhappy and wanted to leave me but stayed out of obligation, I was crushed. I felt unwanted and unloved by my family and fell into old patterns of coping and seeking acceptance elsewhere. My second greatest regret. I had an affair and my husband asked for a divorce.

Needless to say, I realized that I was still a mess of a human being, making horrible decisions and hurting those I loved. I should have known better by now, right? What was wrong with me? I thought everything was supposed to be great because I was a Christian, married to a Pastor and I had a wonderful son. I was supposed to be a new creation in Christ. I had great faith in God. I read and studied the Bible. I prayed, got counseling and read books to better myself, and tried to make my marriage work, but it didn’t work, it wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t good enough, and I grew weary, lost hope, gave up, and let sin take root.

I had forgotten something. Way back when I first got saved and started serving in ministry, I was a very zealous new believer and very proud of the fact that I had such strong faith. I made a rather judgmental statement to a woman who was sharing her doubts about her marriage with me. I said, “How could you think that way? You're a Christian.” Boy, was I an insensitive idiot. Not long after that, I was reading a passage in the gospel of Luke about a conversation between Jesus and the apostle Peter. In chapter 22:31-33 it says: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” But Peter replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” Right then and there, I felt the strong presence of the Lord saying to me, “Mara, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat, but I’m praying for you, that your faith may not fail, and when you have turned back, strengthen the brethren.” And my reply was the same as Peter’s, “But Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” I honestly believed that. When I got saved, God gave me great faith. It’s the greatest gift He’s given me. I never doubted God. I never got mad at Him. I believed every word of the Bible and expected everyone else to believe the same. Like Peter, I was arrogant and impetuous. Like Peter, I needed to be sifted and humbled. And that’s just what happened.

After my divorce, I wallowed in my shame and regret for about six years. Deciding I didn’t belong in the church anymore, I went the way of the world living to gratify myself. That of course only compounded my problem. Which, I’m sure you know by now, was me. I was the problem. It wasn’t how I was raised. It wasn’t because I was attacked. It wasn’t because of my failed marriage. It wasn’t because of any of my circumstances. It was because I didn’t know who, and whose, I was.

All this time I felt like my past sins, although forgiven by God, would never allow me to be fully free. I felt like even though Jesus died for me there were still consequences for my sins and I deserved to suffer for them. I couldn’t forgive myself, and I wasn’t captivated enough by God’s love, so I kept trying to find love, identity and fulfillment in my husband and son, and in others. Which I have learned is a common mistake for many women. Even though I had that radical transformation when I first gave my life to Christ I was still holding onto baggage from the past and believing the lie of the devil that I wasn’t truly redeemable, and I didn’t fully understand that Jesus was enough.

But God, in His amazingly gracious relentless pursuit of my heart never gave up on me. One night when I had fallen face down in the carpet, curled up in the fetal position, balling like a baby, broken and at the end of myself, He whispered to me; Mara you are loved, you are forgiven, you are Mine, now get up and come back to your First Love.

Once again Jesus saved me, and I returned to Him, my First Love. I surrendered fully this time. I believed Jesus really was enough for me. I didn’t have to suffer for my sins because Jesus did. I didn’t need another person to fulfill or complete me because only Jesus can. I opened my Bible and went back to church and life became brighter and love became possible again.

God restored my relationship with my son and it’s better than ever. God also graciously gave me another opportunity for love, with a wonderful man named Mark. We married in January 2017. I’m serving in ministry again and I discovered my calling. I went to a post abortive healing retreat called Deeper Still and there God completely healed and redeemed the wounds of my abortion and my adultery. I am redeemed. I no longer wear that cloak of shame and guilt. Jesus reminded me that He bore my shame and guilt on the cross and then took it to the grave. It is no longer mine to bear. The chains are broken, the prison doors have been ripped off. I am free.

Jesus’ words, as always, were true. Satan did mess with me. I did succumb to his lies. But, because Jesus was praying for me, I never lost my faith, I just lost my way, and I needed to be sifted and humbled, so that I could be useful for His Kingdom.

As much as I regret my sins and wish I could go back and undo that part of my life, I know God has been with me since the day I was born. I know that even in the abuse done to me, and in the sins I committed, He was there all the time, calling me to turn to Him and trust Him. At times I did and at times I didn’t, and He was always faithful and always good. I have learned that what the devil meant for evil, God truly means for good. He really does bring beauty out of ashes. He really does redeem the years the locust have eaten. And, He really does restore my soul. He really is a good, good Father. He is my Husband and my Maker. He is my Prince of Peace. He is my Wonderful Counselor. He is Mighty God. He is my identity now. I no longer need the acceptance or validation of people. I am accepted in the Beloved. I now live, and move, and have my being for an audience of One.

Those who have been forgiven much, love much.

I‘m telling my story now because it's time. It’s God’s story of relentless love, and unworthy redemption. One woman’s story was the key to unlock my prison. Now I hope to unlock yours by sharing mine. If my story stops just one woman from having an abortion and stops just one person from committing adultery, then I will have fulfilled my calling. I want to spare people the scarring and regret of sexual sin. As much as I have been forgiven, redeemed and set free, scars and regret remain. You don’t want that. I don’t want that for you. Jesus is enough for you, more than enough. There is nothing or no one in this world that you need more than Jesus. Turn to Him. Trust Him. Jesus is the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life that you need to be free.

I have dedicated my life now to helping women find their identity in Christ, choose abundant life for themselves and their baby, and help those who have suffered the effects of sexual sin and abortion to find healing and redemption in Jesus.

God loves you, and that’s not just words, it’s reality, and when you are captivated by that reality, it will change the entire trajectory of your life, and then you too will be singing God’s praises.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!

Mara Petro

To live is Christ, to die is gain. Philippians 1:21

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” ~Isaiah 61:1-3

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