Falling into Place—A Second Chance at a Life of Purpose

06/12/2014 .
Lisa Fontaine  .  Saddleback Storytelling Ministry

Miriam Quiambao Roberto’s heart sank when she fell on stage during the 1999 Miss Universe pageant. Not believing in giving up, she regained her composure, kept walking, and amazingly was crowned first runner up. That night sparked a series of successes that advanced her to stardom in her home country of the Philippines. No one knew that the beauty’s life of glamour and fame was nothing more than a shell housing unbearable emptiness and pain. At her lowest, she was contemplating taking her life when she received a message from God that changed everything.

Miriam was raised in a Catholic home but grew distant from God as she grew older. At the age of 23, she was crowned Miss Philippines and went on to compete in the 1999 Miss Universe pageant. The evening was picture-perfect until the heel of her shoe became entangled in the train of her dress during the evening gown competition, causing her to slip and fall on the stage. Although inside she was fearful that her tumble would cost her the crown, Miriam appeared unaffected by the mishap as she collected herself and graciously completed her walk to a roar of applause from the audience. During her pageant interview, she referred to the incident and said she felt she represented women who have fallen in life—both on and off the stage. She had no idea those words would reflect her own life in just a few short years.

Miriam’s display of grace under fire during the pageant endeared her to the Filipino people. She began working as a TV host and quickly rose to fame, becoming a household name throughout the country. At the peak of her career, Miriam was swept up in a whirlwind romance and left her work in the entertainment industry behind to move to Hong Kong and get married. But that fairytale romance quickly ended, leaving her unemployed, divorced, alone, and deeply depressed.

Miriam desperately wanted to end her suffering and teetered on the edge of suicide. In the midst of her darkest moment, when all seemed lost, God stepped in, silenced the voices in her head, and quietly and powerfully spoke to her. "If you kill yourself, it's not love." Miriam says those words washed over her with a freedom that helped her identify that the solution to her problems was not suicide, but very simply, God’s love. A few days later, she found a book that a friend had given her before she moved to Hong Kong—The Purpose Driven Life. As she read it, her past, present, and future came into focus. She realized that God had purpose for her life—a reason for her to keep living.

Through her identity in Christ, Miriam found renewal and new beginnings. Over time, she healed from her divorce, revived her career, and grew in her faith. Miriam was grateful for every blessing in her life, but her heart longed to have a family of her own. God answered her prayers when she received a second chance at love and married Filipino Christian author and entrepreneur Ardy Roberto.

Today, Miriam is a friend of Saddleback’s South Manila campus. In April 2014, at a special Easter service for the new campus, Miriam and Ardy shared with a crowd of more than 500 people how God authored their love story.

Looking back, Miriam realizes how that fateful fall with the eyes of the world watching her is symbolic of God’s plan for her life. Through her experiences, she is able to share how, through Jesus, we are able to rise after every fall in life with renewed strength and purpose. And although difficult to experience, every failure, defeat, and loss in life is vital for making everything fall right into place.

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