Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Picture-Perfect Lie

Leslie Basham: Mayra Beltran de Ortiz was at work one day and made an unexpected trip home for lunch. She was surprised to see her husband.

Mayra Beltran de Ortiz: When I walked in the door, I saw Federico sitting on the couch watching TV with a glass of vodka in his hand.

Leslie: She was unhappy he wasn’t working. She said:

Mayra: Now you drink on weekdays and watch TV?

Leslie: But he wasn’t watching TV. He was passed out there on the couch. She was about to discover why.

Mayra: As I passed by the table, I saw a white envelope with my name on it.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, January 23.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Do you ever feel pressure to present a picture-perfect image? I know I understand that temptation. Well, at the last True Woman Conference, our team debuted a short film—a dramatic true story—about a woman who felt pressure to present a picture-perfect life. And then she watched as that perfect image shattered.

That short film made a big impression on those who attended True Woman, and some have been asking, “Where can we see that video again?” You can see it now at ReviveOurHearts.com. Today and tomorrow on the radio we’re going to hear an extended version of that same story.

As you listen, I know you’ll want to see the video version as well. It’s definitely worth ten minutes of your time. Again, you can go to ReviveOurHearts.com and check out the video version of Mayra’s story. This is a story about getting “real” and surrendering control to the Lord.

Your specific story may be different, as is mine, but all of us need to be reminded about the need to be honest before God and to admit our desperate need for Him. This story is about what to do when your world falls apart—how the Lord can pick up the broken pieces and make something beautiful when we’ve made a mess of things.

So, here’s the story. Mayra Beltran Ortiz felt like she had a picture-picture life. At least that was the impression she wanted to make.

Mayra: I had a lot of pride. I was proud of being obedient; I was proud of being a good student, and being a moral person.

Nancy: Her husband, Federico, came from a well-respected family in the Dominican Republic, where they lived. Like his father and grandfather, Federico was a banker. Federico worked for eight years in the central bank of the Dominican Republic and then became vice-president of a private bank.

Mayra stayed home with their two children, who were well-behaved and high achievers . . .

Mayra: And now, I thought I was a good wife and a good mother. People around me were always giving me compliments, saying, “You are the best woman in the world!” We looked like a loving family, but in reality, everything wasn’t picture-perfect.

I looked good on the outside, but on the inside I was very independent. In order to look like everything was perfect, I was very controlling.

Nancy: When her family wasn’t living up to her expectations, sometimes Mayra would try manipulating them or forcing things to go her way. Part of maintaining a picture-perfect image was going to church. Mayra had grown up in a traditional church and wanted her family to keep up the tradition.

Mayra: I used to say the Lord’s Prayer, because my father taught it to me, saying it every night. I would repeat after him and say it. But for me, it was like a lucky charm. If I prayed it, maybe God would take care of me.

Nancy: Federico didn’t have a real relationship with God, either. His sister had given her life to the Lord, but when they were younger Federico would make fun of her about her faith, and he wasn’t interested in knowing God personally.

Here’s Federico, speaking through an interpreter:

Interpreter for Federico: I made fun of her a lot. I thought they were mistaken, that it was not possible—that God being so good—would only save a small group of people, with relation to the whole world.

Nancy: Mayra thought everything was under control. Her kids were successful, she was a model wife and mom, and her husband was a successful banker. So she wasn’t happy when he started talking about changing professions. He would say things like, “I don’t want to be an employee; I want to be my own boss.”

Mayra: Even though he was doing very well at the bank, he wanted to start his own business. He thought the important people he knew from the bank would help him by giving him business. He said, “I want to have a better life.” But I felt we already had a good life.

He had a good salary and a yearly bonus. I felt secure with the position he had at the bank.

Interpreter for Federico: I didn’t like having strict work schedules, and I had to report to so many people . . . having so many bosses over me. So it was very attractive to me, being young, the idea of being independent, and to reach a level of income and material things that would give me a better life—a lifestyle different than what we had.

Nancy: Federico had a client at the bank who was selling a printing business. Federico wanted to buy it and finally become his own boss. But Mayra wasn’t supportive of those plans.

Mayra: I remember saying to him, “You don’t know anything about printing.” I was very strong and disrespectful. I thought I was right, and so my opinions were very direct.

Nancy: Now, it’s important for wives to give input on decisions that affect the family. But it needs to be done in a way that follows the words of Ephesians 5, speaking with respect. So many times wives want to take situations into their own hands, rather than respectfully speaking and waiting on the Lord to work in their husband’s heart.

Federico was responsible for the way he responded, but when Mayra discouraged him with her harsh words, he was tempted to keep the truth from her.

Interpreter for Federico: I remember that when I told Mayra my idea of becoming independent and having my own business, she didn’t like it, but in those days I didn’t listen to her, really. I always thought she was telling me “no” to be contrary to me—as a form of rebellion, and I also—I recognize now—I was more rebellious. I always wanted to impose my positions over her opinions.

Nancy: Federico was tired of Mayra bothering him, so he told her that he put her plans to buy a printing business on hold.

Mayra: He said, “Okay, I will wait,” but he didn’t. He kept making plans without telling me, and I think the disrespectful way I used to speak to him tempted him to be afraid of telling me things.

Interpreter for Federico: When Mayra talked to me in that way and told me that she was not in agreement with my thinking, she said it in a very forceful way. I viewed it as a power struggle—where she wanted to impose her position, and she didn’t understand my reasons.

I simply just didn’t listen to her. I didn’t understand what she was saying to me, and I did whatever I thought I needed to do.

Nancy: Mayra was surprised when Federico announced he had resigned from the bank and bought the printing company.

Mayra: I really felt he betrayed me.

Nancy: The printing business faced problems from the beginning. Federico discovered debts from the previous owner. An accountant had lied about those. An employee stole equipment from him. He started to lose money and had to sell the business.

Interpreter for Federico: I felt completely destroyed; I felt that I had failed on that project. It was very difficult for me to go back and look for a job—to look for a job at a bank—because now, over a year had passed since I left the bank to go to the printing business. I felt very bad, very much like a failure.

Nancy: Mayra thought it was a sign. By this time, she had gotten into New Age religions, looking for something, anything, to fill a spiritual need in her life.

Mayra: I explored Eastern religions and all sorts of ideas. I even arranged the furniture in a certain way to “channel positive energy.”  I was trying to meet a deep need in my life.

Nancy: After the printing business closed, Mayra figured Federico would return to his job at the bank.

Mayra: But he said, “I have a lot of loans. I need to buy another business to make money, to pay back debts.” Another successful printing business went up for sale and Federico bought it. And it was a mess. He did work for the government, but they didn’t pay on time.

When that business closed, he got into real estate.

Nancy: One of Federico’s next business ventures involved building condominiums. He would take orders from people, collect the money, and then deliver the finished condo. Mayra was worried because the housing market had become weak. She felt like her husband was taking a lot of risks.

I think a lot of women can relate to that feeling and expressing those concerns can be really helpful. But it’s so easy to do it with a wrong spirit, and in a way that turns out to be destructive.

Mayra: I tried to help him, but I was doing it the wrong way. I was very controlling and disrespectful.

Nancy: During this time, Federico began making plans for his family to live in one of the condominiums he was building. He wanted it to be the kind of place they could live in the rest of their lives.

Mayra: He was trying to make me happy. It was like we were trying to build a life, but we were building on wrong foundations.

Nancy: After a while, Mayra stopped asking questions about Federico’s business . . .

Mayra: . . . mainly because I didn’t want to fight all the time. I convinced myself things were going well.

Interpreter for Federico: I didn’t tell her what really had happened, for fear of her reaction, because I knew she was going to recriminate. She was going to call to my attention and fight me. There was a lot of pride on my part. I couldn’t have others recognize that I had failed.

Nancy: Mayra was maintaining the image of a picture-perfect wife and mom. As her kids got older, she started to extend that image through her own career. She began working at a growing health club chain.

Mayra: They needed help getting organized, and they liked the work that I did. The company started making more money, and eventually I became vice-president. I had this big executive office, a secretary and assistants. Everyone told me I was a very important person. I was proud of being a very moral person.

Nancy: Maintaining the image of a successful manager led to a lot of stress. Mayra was on a treadmill—literally and figuratively. Literally because she felt like she had to set a good example and use the exercise equipment at the health club where she worked. 

Mayra: I really prefer outdoor sports, but I wanted everyone to know that I was using the indoor machines.

Nancy: The long hours and stress-filled days made life feel like a treadmill that never stopped. 

Mayra: At that time if you would have asked me what a true woman was, I would have said a true woman was someone just like me—successful and independent. I had my own income and my own checking account. My house was in order, my children had done well in school and at college.

I thought I was a true woman because my kids were successful. But I had put my children before my husband. The order was upside-down. I thought my children were my first responsibility.

Nancy: Mayra’s daughter, Erika, felt the pressure of keeping up the picture-perfect image.       

Erika: She always was pushing us to be excellent students. I used to swim, and I had to be the best swimmer. Sometimes I would rebel against her and tell her that I didn’t want swim or that I didn’t want to be the perfect student. 

Mayra: A lot of women admired me. I had a lot of power. I could travel, I could buy the clothes that I wanted. I felt important, and I felt like I had everything under control.

Nancy: One day during this time, Erika came home for lunch and heard her dad, Federico, talking to a lawyer. They were discussing a deal that involved millions of pesos. There was something about the look in her father’s eyes that made her feel afraid.

She said she didn’t like the look on his face, and she wondered if there was something dangerous about this deal.

Erika: I remember I got very afraid and sad, and I called my mom at her work and explained to her what I saw—the situation.

Nancy: Mayra tried to calm her daughter down, and the only that came to mind was that prayer she had learned as a girl. She hadn’t said it in a long time, but she and Erika prayed . . .

Mayra: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil . . .”

I talked to Federico about what Erika had heard, and he said, “Everything is fine! I used to be a banker, so I’m used to talking about millions of pesos. It’s just normal to me.”

Nancy: The family took a two-week trip to Disneyworld. While there, Federico talked about one day having enough money to move to Florida. To him, that would be a good life. He was trying to earn enough money to give his family a good house in a good location.

For Mayra, a good life was keeping a good appearance and keeping everything under control. But each of their plans was about to fall apart.

Mayra was sitting in her executive office one day when the picture-perfect image began to crack. A friend of the family walked in. He told Mayra he had paid Federico to build a new condo, but the condo had not been built. For months, this friend had tried to get his money back.

Finally, he came to talk to Mayra, assuming she knew about her husband’s business dealings, but she didn’t. She called Federico, trying to find out what was going on. He admitted he had taken his friend’s money. Instead of using it to build him a condo, as promised, Federico had used it to pay other debts.

He was now hoping to sell another condo to pay back the friend. Of course, this would just keep the cycle of debt going.

Mayra: At that point I lost it. I said, “Are you crazy? Are you out of your mind? What are you thinking? I’m ashamed!” I talked to him like he was one of my employees. I belittled him and made him feel worthless. I had always said I would never divorce him, but in that moment I thought I would be better off alone.

I told him a lot of things with a very strong voice, very angry. One of the things I regret the most was, I told him it would be better if he were dead.

Interpreter for Federico: I felt that everything had been found out, that now there was nothing I could do to resolve anything. Everything I had done, everything I had said, had been a lie, and so I felt like I couldn’t face that. I was very afraid.

I couldn’t see her; I couldn’t face my children.

Nancy: Federico was in the car when he heard those words. He drove to a store and bought a bottle of vodka . . . and he bought a rat poison that’s so powerful it’s been banned in the United States and a lot of other countries. But there in the Dominican Republic Federico was able to buy it off the shelf.

With his vodka and rat poison, he headed home. Mayra had told Federico she didn’t want to see him and wouldn’t be coming home for lunch. But then, for reasons she couldn’t explain, she changed her mind. She walked in the door and saw Federico sitting on the couch watching TV, with a glass of vodka in his hand.

Mayra: Again, I was not respectful. I said, “Now you drink on weekdays and watch TV?” I thought he was wasting time when he should have been working.

Nancy: As Mayra passed by the table, she saw an envelope with her name on it. Federico had written a three-page letter and described all of his debt, which was far worse than she had realized. Not only had he borrowed from banks, but he had also taken out informal loans from dangerous money lenders who would get violent if they weren’t paid back.

Federico gave instructions on how his family should leave the country, but he didn’t plan to come with them. He said he had taken rat poison because he considered himself a rat.

Mayra realized she was holding a suicide note. She ran over and found that her husband was unconscious but still alive. She rushed him to the emergency room.

Mayra: The doctor told me to call my children, because he didn’t think Federico would make it.

Nancy:  Remember Federico’s sister, who knew the Lord and endured ridicule because of it? Well, that sister came to the hospital, and she prayed.

Mayra: For her, prayer wasn’t like a good luck charm. Her relationship with God wasn’t about tradition. She talked to God like she knew Him personally. It was the kind of relationship with God that I wanted to have.

Nancy: Tomorrow we’ll pick back up with the story. You’ll hear how Mayra found how to have that kind of personal relationship with Christ. But you don’t have to wait until tomorrow to cry out to Him. Maybe, like Mayra, you’ve developed a picture-perfect façade, and no one knows the real you.

True peace and true purpose in life come from getting real before God, honestly admitting to Him, “I’m a sinner, and I need You.” Jesus is the only One who actually lived a perfect life, but He was punished for our sins, so we could be forgiven.

When you acknowledge your need, confess your sin, and put your faith in Him, He gives you His righteousness, so you can be right before a holy God.

If you’re tired of trying to maintain a perfect image and you want to make things right—for real—I want to invite you, wherever you are, to cry out to the Lord. Let me just pray a simple prayer that—if it reflects the desire of your heart—I want to encourage you to pray with me. 

Oh Father, I know I need You! I’ve tried to live this picture-perfect life, and I have failed. I’m a sinner. I can’t please You; I can’t please others. I need You! Thank You that You sent Jesus to this world; that He lived that perfect life that I could never live; that He went to the cross to pay the price, the penalty, for my sin.

Right now I confess my sin to you, I repent of it, and by faith I trust Jesus Christ to be my righteousness. Please come into my life, Lord Jesus, forgive my sin. Take control of my life and make me the kind of person, from the inside-out, that You created me to be. Thank you. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Now, if you just cried out to the Lord and asked Him to save you, to deliver you from your sin, we want to send you some free material that will help you to understand better what it means to know Jesus personally and how you can grow in your new-found faith.

Just give us a call at 1–800–569–5959. Let us know that you want the free resource on how to know Jesus personally and grow in your faith.

Mayra, who’s been our guest today, now helps translate Revive Our Hearts into Spanish. The Spanish program is called Aviva Nuestros Corazonesand it’s being broadcast throughout the Spanish-speaking world. Our listeners are a big part of making Aviva Nuestros Corazones possible. When you support this ministry—Revive Our Hearts—financially, you’re helping us bring the English message to you every day, and you’re helping us get this message to new audiences who have never heard it.

When you make a donation of any size to Revive Our Hearts this week, we want to say “thank you” by sending you a copy of the piano CD that I had the opportunity to record called Be Still. So ask for the CD, Be Still, when you call to make a gift of any size. You can call, or visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

If you’ve been intrigued by the story of Mayra and Federico, I hope you’ll watch the short documentary our team made with them. You can see this beautifully crafted, short film that was shot on location in the Dominican Republic. Watch it for yourself at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Tomorrow, we’ll pick back up with Mayra’s story. You’ll find out how the Lord took the broken pieces of this family’s life and made a whole new creation. Please be back, and join us for Revive Our Hearts. 

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries. 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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