“I feel unworthy telling my story. I’ve made stupid mistakes. Maybe my story speaks more of God’s patience than anything else.
I’ve always known about God. My family were churchgoers and my father built the pews in our church. I’ve known that God was there, but I thought I could come and go as I pleased, on my own terms. If I went away from God, I knew I could come back.
It took me a long time to realise it wasn’t like that. I separated from the father of my three girls. I was on my own and I wanted to take the girls to church, but on the few occasions that I did, it felt like I was being judged. Looking back, it might not have been like that. Maybe I was looking for an excuse not to go. I wandered away for a bit. The girls and I read the Bible occasionally and I sent them to Girls’ Brigade, but I didn’t commit to Jesus. It was more like I acted in a certain way when it suited me.
Then one year, I thought I’d start reading the Bible seriously. I knew bits of it by heart, but I thought I’d get a Bible reading plan … and that was when I started to see how it all fitted together. I suddenly realised I wasn’t good enough for God … and I was never going to be. And that was the point! We can’t be good enough, and God takes us as we are.
At about the same time, I met a group of work colleagues who read the Bible together on Friday lunchtimes. I joined them. They prayed out loud and I’d never done that before. I thought if I did, other people would think I was a fraud. They’d know the mistakes I’d made. It took a lot of courage, but I joined in … and it wasn’t that bad! They were very supportive and open about their faith in Jesus. Then, I met David. I hadn’t been looking to partner again. But I had said to God, if it does happen, could you bring someone with a strong faith in you? He did that! David gave me a Bible for Christmas that year – a lovely Bible that I could highlight and scribble in.
Ten years after we were married, we moved to the Northern Territory (with our son) to live and work. I was offered a role with a regional council in children’s services, and we were based in an Aboriginal community in Mount Liebig. It’s 300 kilometres west of Alice Springs. When we got there, we knew there was a church service run by one of the local men trained as a pastor, so we went along, checking first that it was okay. The pastor said, “God lets everybody in here!”
It was all in the local language. We made lovely local friends who sat near us and helped us with the songbook and the Bible message. They taught us and included us. They weren’t afraid to share their faith with us, and it wasn’t complicated. One man said he’d been a terrible drunk and he’d beaten his wife. But now he knows Jesus and he doesn’t beat his wife anymore.
Five years on, we’re still in the Northern Territory. Being here (and being prayed for by these local Aboriginal friends) has taught me more than anything else. We can come to God as we are, and we can be honest with each other about what Jesus means to us. I think it’s finally shown me that it doesn’t need to be the perfect story. I’m realising every day that we’re all imperfect and spiritually bereft when we come to God. But we can come! At church on Sunday we read Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
We are all poor in Spirit, but we can come to God. We can pray, we can talk about Jesus, we can trust him. It’s okay to be terrified … but pray anyway, talk about Jesus anyway. I know I’ve made stupid mistakes and I still do, but God is patient with me!”
Catherine’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.