'There had been a murder in Goondiwindi'

Destiny’s story | The long road to forgiveness

“I moved house when I was 21, to a suburb in Brisbane. One of my new neighbours said that the other neighbours were religious fanatics. I knew I needed help, though, and it was Easter Thursday, so I drove around my suburb looking for a church advertising their Easter services. I couldn’t find one, so I knocked on the door of the ‘religious fanatics’. I said, “Excuse me, I don’t want to bother you, but could I come to church with you tomorrow?”

The woman was overjoyed! I didn’t know why she was so excited. We went the next day. I thought it was a little bit weird, but afterwards, everyone was friendly, so I went back on Easter Sunday. That’s when I heard the gospel preached. They sang that hymn, ‘Just as I am, without one plea.’ I wanted to go down the front for prayer. Other people were going down, but in those days, I wore short miniskirts and high heels … and I didn’t want to walk down the aisle in my short skirt.

But the guy kept speaking and I thought … if what he says is true, and if God really does love me, and he sent his Son to die for me, and if I can know his peace, then I want this Jesus! I’m going down that aisle, short skirt or no short skirt! I went down and I prayed. I trusted in Jesus and I grew in my faith from then.

It’s been a really long journey, but I know that God is faithful. In 2002, my daughter died. It was a hot December day. She was 29. I can’t describe it to you. My son saw it first on the TV. There had been a murder in Goondiwindi. The police rang and said the words every parent dreads to hear. “I’m sorry to inform you that your daughter has been murdered.” We found out later that five people were responsible. Three of them are still in gaol, including her ex-husband – my son-in-law. There’s so much I could tell you – so much pain. It’s a big, long, awful story. She left three children, aged 8,9,11. At first the children lived with me, and then they lived with my other daughter.

The court case was a year or two later. We found out that drugs and alcohol were the fuel for it. Somehow, after the court case, I walked over to my son-in-law and I eyeballed him. I asked him how he was. Later, I took the kids to see him in jail. None of us knew what to say. But I kept going back to see him, regularly … and slowly, he said sorry. He was repentant. He was on suicide watch. He asked me if I could forgive him.

I can’t say when it happened, but from the first day I knew I wanted to forgive him. Over time, I did. I believe it was a gift from God. I could never do it myself. God did something in my heart and it’s been a release. It’s been healing. If I hadn’t been able to forgive, I know I would’ve been crippled by hatred and bitterness. It’s been a long journey over 20 years, and some of our family members are still wrestling with it. I tell them that forgiveness isn’t easy. It doesn’t mean you ever have to see the person again. You don’t have to come up with the strength yourself. You can say to God, “I can’t do this.”

Sometimes I say to other people, especially mothers who are grieving their children, that I wish I had the answers. I don’t. I don’t know why God allows things. All I know is that he loves us, and that when hard things happen, God hurts as well. In those times, he wants us to press harder into him. Lately, we’ve been singing this song at church. ‘I’ve had many tears and sorrows … but through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust in God. I’ve learned to depend upon his word.’  That’s my testimony. I’m 74 and I’ve had many tears and sorrows, but I’ve learnt trust in God.”

Destiny’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.

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