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Jun 24, 2020 254 0 Joelle Maryn
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From Hollywood to Star of the World

Have you ever felt lost, alone, unsure of who you are, why you are here or what God’s plan is for your life? As a well-known model, actress and TV host, it looked like Joelle Maryn had it all, until she hit a spiritual rock bottom during a dream come true trip to Hollywood. Read on to know how she took a drastic return to Christ!

When I was 6 years old, my family was devastated by a terrible tragedy. Just a week before Christmas, somebody forgot to blow out the candles on the Advent wreath and it caught fire. The real Christmas tree next to it went up in flames, followed by the whole house. I barely made it out while my father tried to save my 11 year old sister, Maria. Unfortunately, he could not get to her in time.

Lifeline Cut Off

As we all grieved her death and the loss of everything we owned, people generously gave us things to help us. I was thrilled to receive many beautiful dolls, but my prized possession was a doll belonging to my sister that had somehow survived the inferno with burn marks and a curious smell. I was a prayerful little girl and knew that the Bible said Jesus could raise the dead. So, l laid all these dolls on my bed, in the shape of my sister, and prayed, “God, I will give you everything I have, if you can just give me back my sister”. I waited for God to respond but nothing happened. Still hopeful and firmly believing that God could bring her back to me, I prayed again without result. I persisted in prayer, with the addition of a couple of magic words, but when nothing happened, doubt entered my heart. “Maybe God doesn’t love me”. If He truly knew the trauma my entire family was feeling, He would bring her back. I think that’s the moment I decided to cut my phone line to God and stopped praying.

Glittering in the Limelight

Since my mother had a theatre company, I started acting so I could be with her. When I took on a role, I would get so involved in the character that I would completely forget who I was. Sometimes, I would hide myself in this ideal, perfect life where I could pretend that everything was okay.

As I grew up, it seemed like the illusion was becoming a reality. I was modelling across the nation for Jergens and Target; on a billboard in Times Square; acting in independent films; featuring on book covers and hosting a TV show. I started a cosmetic company which was popular with celebrities and featured in magazines. I owned three houses. It looked like I had it all. But no matter what I achieved, or how much I possessed, nothing seemed to satisfy me. I was always reaching for the one more thing I needed to be happy.

High on a Hollywood rooftop for a glamorous photo shoot, I seemed to have reached the pinnacle of my life as I posed in my $4000 dress, with the sun hitting me just right but all I felt inside was so much emptiness. I had no idea who I was or why I was here. I had completely lost my own identity. I was certainly far from Christ.

Column of Love

I spent that night weeping on the shower floor of the fancy hotel room, praying for the first time in many years. “Lord, I need you. I don’t have this anymore”. That fervent prayer for help opened my heart for grace to rush in. My whole life flashed before my eyes, highlighting every sin I had ever committed. It was excruciating to see the effects of my bad example—for those who followed me, who followed them and so on.

It hurt to see how much I had failed to love. I was shown two columns. The good column contained all my acts of love—how I had used the gifts and graces that God gave me to build His kingdom. That column was nearly empty, but I saw that column weighed more. Why did the good column weigh more than the worst sin? I did not even know the scripture at that time, “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

If we are filling up our good column, being the person God created us to be and loving one another, then we are not sinning. God did not show me this to condemn me, but as an act of mercy. I did not deserve this grace, God gave it to me because I was so far lost, but it comes with a responsibility— to share His message with others. There is nothing that we have ever done that could ever separate us from the love of God, nothing so bad that He cannot take us back. If God can help and save me, He can help and save anyone.

After this experience, I changed my life. I read the whole Bible in just 2 months. I was so excited to hear the truth. When I reached the part where Jesus gets lost in The Temple, I said, “Lord where this temple is? I want to find your temple”. Then, the Catholic Church came to my mind, so I started going to daily Mass. I felt that I was home. Although I did not realize the necessity for Reconciliation, before receiving Communion, especially if you have committed mortal sin, God started to convict my heart. I had not been to Confession since my grandmother pushed me there when I was in College. That was a great act of love. We need strong people in our lives to encourage us—to tell us, it is time.

After confessing, I felt a lot better but the priest warned me, “If the enemy whispers that you are not forgiven, ignore him and just believe that you are.” He was right. I was attacked. “That seemed too easy. How could Jesus forgive my sin just like that?” I still felt this darkness covering me, but I made an act of faith that I was forgiven. So I decided to confess again the next week after fasting and praying. When I related all this in Confession, Father recommended prayer in the Adoration Chapel. I did not know what it was, but I researched it at home. When I discovered that the Blessed Sacrament was the true presence of Jesus and sought Him in the chapel, I felt like the whole room stood still.

Burned Again

I wanted to rebuild who I was and discover my purpose. Persistently in Adoration I would ask, “Lord who do you say I am? Who am I in your eyes? What do you see when you look at me? Why am I here?” A big, booming voice did not come out of the sky, but thoughts started coming. “You are loved. You are mine. You are my child”. If we spend time in silence, we will be surprised by how God constantly communicates with us.

In Adoration one day, I asked Jesus to reveal all the lies in my heart which stood in the way of knowing myself as a loved child of God. When I started writing, I could not believe how many there were—nearly 80! I also realized that the only way to Joy was doing God’s will. Surrender was so difficult at first. God wants us to constantly let go of things that do not lead to him. It felt like my life was burned down to the ground again, but there is something so healing, when darkness is brought into the light of Christ.

I want to shine like the star that led the wise ones to Christ. I may be a different kind of star now, but I have no regrets. I am a daughter of the king. There is a purpose for my life that I am burning to share with others. We are all called to be stars that draw others along the right path guided by the fire burning within us. Now is not the time to be lukewarm. We are called to be on fire with our faith, not hiding our lamps, but letting them shine brightly with His Light through the darkness.

We are called to be Eucharistic, called to be bread for others. The sense of community when I came back to the Catholic Church was huge for me. We do not need to suffer alone. How do we become His Light in this dark world? We are created for communion with each other, united by our love for Christ. The love of Christ makes us Eucharistic. Jesus became bread for us. He is the living bread which comes down from Heaven.

With all that is going on in the world, it can seem that the fires we are fighting are too big for us to survive, but if we share His living water these flames cannot destroy us, He will carry us through the flames. If we are living in misery it is because we are not connected to God. We need to get vulnerable. We need to get down on our knees and tell God, “I don’t have this”. That’s what humility is.

One fire nearly took my life, but another fire saved it. It felt impossible to start again, but with God all things are possible. He welcomed me home and gave me a new identity, rooted in His eternal love. Today, I teach the certification classes on the ‘Catechesis of Human love’ for the diocese of Austin. I find it redemptive in so many ways because I have finally learned what love is. Now, I know that God loves me. I know how to bring that love to other people, so that they can share the Good News. I have given up unhealthy relationships that led me away from Christ and now I have joy in my heart that does not depend on what I look like, or what I possess.

Joelle Maryn

© is a Catholic speaker, and writer. Her message of God’s healing love has radiated hope and purpose to many around the world. Joelle shares her drastic return to Christ in the Shalom World TV program “Jesus, my Savior”. To watch the episode visit: https://shalomworld.org/episode/joelle-maryn-a-drasticreturn- to-christ-joelle-maryn-jesus-my-savior.

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