Saturday 4.23.11 Lenten Reflection by Paula Marriott

Paula Marriot has attended The Church of the Resurrection since 2000. With her husband, she led a small group in 2003 that was one of the pioneering small groups for Resurrection’s West campus. Paula serves as a co-leader of the Hospitality Team, is a Group Life Minister, and has served on the Campus Advisory Team, all at Resurrection’s West campus. 

I love the book I Married Adventure, by Osa Johnson. It tells of her amazing experiences with her husband Martin exploring Africa in the early 1900’s. The Safari Museum in Chanute, Kansas, where I grew up, honors them. Other than growing up in Chanute, my life isn’t much like Osa Johnson’s, but her book title would be a good description of life with my husband, Rick Marriott.

Who could have known when we locked eyes our first year of college what God had in store for us?  We didn’t—“God” was not on our personal “radars.” In our homes going to church was optional, and neither of us was interested. Our wedding was the first time we went to church together!

Three years later, a teaching colleague invited us to church and dinner on Easter Sunday.  We remember my colleague’s husband praying at the table and including us (by name) in his prayer. That got our attention. Weeks later, Rick came home from class with a quote from a professor: “If you were on trial for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Another attention getter. (Rick still has that little piece of paper in his own handwriting.)

The “adventure” hadn’t begun yet, but God was making it onto our radar. Rick became Biology teacher and Basketball Coach at Burlington, CO High School. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes there needed a coach to lead the group. Rick agreed—another way to connect with his players, he thought. I worked at a local radio station. One daily program featured a local minister—one week the Methodist pastor, then the Presbyterian, Baptist, Assembly of God, etc. The Baptist pastor always ended our chats by asking, “Paula, are you saved?” Whatever I said didn’t satisfy, so he kept asking. I had no clue what he was talking about.

In summer, 1972, Rick took a group of his students to an FCA conference in Estes Park, CO and I headed south back to Alamosa, CO for the week. We had NO IDEA the God of the Universe was taking us to these places…separately…to turn our lives upside down. In Alamosa, I visited my former teaching colleague. I told her about the Baptist pastor’s persistent “saved” question, and asked, “What does SAVED mean?” She and her husband showed me in the Bible that Nicodemus asked Jesus a similar question, and we talked about how Jesus answered the question. The Holy Spirit was opening the Scriptures to me, and for the first time I began to understand “saved.” I went to bed thinking about our talk. The next morning I knew something was different. I can’t explain it. I just knew I was different, like I’d taken off blinders. The drive back to Burlington was glorious. It was as if I had been living life in subdued hues with a compromised color wheel. Not only had the color wheel expanded, the intensity level had gone up for me in every way…even in the Eastern Colorado landscape.

During this same week, at Rick’s conference in Estes, he heard legendary football coach Tom Landry describe his faith in Jesus Christ as personal, life changing and vital. Rick knew he wanted the same, so he knelt alone and asked God for what Coach Landry had. On a summer Sunday in 1972 our ADVENTURE began. We describe it as two freight trains, one from Estes and one from Alamosa, colliding head on in Burlington. We had lots to learn, but we returned to Burlington with hearts transformed, lives changed and our paths redirected.

Our Methodist pastor soon heard the news and came to visit us. He listened to our story, patted our knees and said “That’s nice, but it won’t last. You’ll get over it.” With one sentence, he motivated us with a burning desire to NEVER “get over it.”

Rick and I had lots to learn, but that wasn’t a problem for God. Burlington hired a new football coach that year. Soon after meeting them, we learned he and his wife were deeply committed Christians, sent there to do more than coach football. We started meeting weekly to study the Scriptures in each other’s homes. Others joined us—now we know we were in our first “small group.” Life became an ADVENTURE with Jesus at the center. It didn’t take us long to realize what a miracle it was that we came to Christ at the same time, hundreds of  miles apart, not knowing what the other was doing. (Cell phones, texting, instant communication didn’t exist then.) Our prayer is that this witness of what God did in our lives will encourage others to believe God is willing, and powerful enough to move mountains to reach us. We are so thankful God worked in our lives. Where would we be if He hadn’t?

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.