'For the first time, I met people who were honest about their lives'
Maree’s story | God forgives. Believe
“When I was about six or seven, I told my family I wanted to be a hairdresser. They said to me, ‘No … you can do better than that.’ Ever since then, I’ve had this feeling that I needed to do bigger things, or better things. I needed to achieve more. So in high school, I decided to have a career in science.”
“I finished my science degree and I got a job in a factory. It was quite an exposure, after my sheltered, Christian upbringing. My work colleagues drank a lot. There was a culture in the factory that everyone asked each other about their social life, and if they found out anything interesting, it would go around the whole factory. It didn’t take them long to find out that I was a Christian and I was single and I didn’t have a boyfriend. Then everyone knew.
“I already felt insecure about it. I was only young then, but a lot of my Christian friends were already getting married, so I felt the pressure. Was there something wrong with me? Partly in response, I started dating, and I had some pretty awful relationships. I went out with all the wrong guys. I knew my family wouldn’t like them. It was out of rebellion. At the same time, work was unchallenging, so I went back to uni and I did my PhD. I was still going to be a scientist. But after graduating, it was really hard to find work. One day, I prayed about it. I told God that if I could just find a good job, I would go anywhere in Australia.
“I got a job in a remote place in Victoria, which was a long way from Queensland [where I grew up]. And then, when I got there, it was awful. There was nothing for me to do. The company had advertised for a certain role, but it didn’t exist. They only hired me to even out the gender imbalance. I got quite angry about it. If I’d prayed about it, why hadn’t it worked out?
“After a year, I moved back to Queensland and then moved to another town. I stopped going to church. I’d done too many things wrong. I couldn’t be forgiven. And it felt like everyone else at church was perfect. None of them had made mistakes, like me.
“That was when I ran into a friend of a friend. He invited me to his church. I went, and for the first time, I met people who were honest about their lives. There was a level of acceptance. I’d just arrived and nobody knew me but they were interested in me. They invited me to their homes. I joined a small group.
“One Sunday, there was a visiting speaker. She said she’d previously been a prostitute and now she ran a café and she employed other women who’d come out of prostitution. She spoke about how she’d found forgiveness in Jesus. I suddenly realised that I could also be forgiven by God. If a prostitute and a heroin addict could be forgiven, then surely I could be forgiven too? I prayed.
“It was a turning point for me. It was the first time I’d heard someone honestly tell their story. Prior to that, I’d always thought I’d done too many things wrong. But then I listened to the speaker, and I prayed, and I went home. Later I read Matthew 6:26 – ‘Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?’
“It changed everything. I suddenly realised that God cared for me. I was valuable to him. He had forgiven me because of Jesus. He cared about me, all the time, even when things seemed awful. Now, I’m studying again, in a different field. I’m working at my church! I’m realising that I don’t always need to be striving to do ‘better’ things. It’s amazing. I’m actually happy!
“I can see God at work and I’m involved in church planning and strategy and outreach. It really interests me. And it’s really cool!”