Marilyn’s life journey had been a painful one, but God transformed that pain into compassion for others.
“Go back to church and you’ll find all you need in life.”
The words of my ageing mother rang in my ears. I was 53 years old, a grieving widow after a 30-year relationship and marriage to a Vietnam veteran who suffered with alcoholism addiction, gambling, heavy smoking and behavioural issues.
I should have felt free after his death, but for most of my life I had felt trapped.
Growing up, I lived on a dairy farm in NSW with my family, a menagerie of animals and home-grown produce to fill our bellies. It may sound good but, behind the scenes, life was different. I was born with a muscle weakness causing limited vision, and was clumsy, often falling over and bumping into things. I was constantly told that I was not good enough.
School and my first experience with a job brought the same pain, with thoughts of suicide beginning at the age of 12 because I saw no other way out. God was still in my thoughts back then, though—we went to the Church of England, and
it was a good experience for me because I felt different while at church.
I began a two-year relationship with an older man which resulted in a child born out of wedlock. We agreed for the child to be adopted, because I felt I had no love to give. In the early ’70s my pregnancy was a shameful secret, and the doctor who delivered the child said he hoped I remembered the pain of childbirth next time I contemplated going down this sinful path.
Another doctor gave me some tablets to make me ‘feel better’, so I took the whole lot but someone found me and I was taken to hospital—a pattern that continued for the next 18 months. I was in psych wards in different hospitals but support systems for mental health were limited, and I felt I couldn’t return to my family. I had to fend for myself, until my life with my husband began with a chance meeting in the psych ward.
Alone after his death I recalled the words of my mother, and when a friend invited me to the Salvos at Brisbane City Temple I found life again. I had been in a few churches but had not felt the sense of belonging I did there.
One Sunday Major Earle Ivers delivered a sermon with a verse from Isaiah 43:18–19: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
I had feared God for so long due to the terrible path I had lived in my life but I realised he lifted me from my sin. My journey took me to the formation of Brisbane Streetlevel with Major Bryce Davies as one of my early encouragers and over the next four years I was involved in many ministries of hospitality.
I’ve collected at pubs, markets, train stations and during Red Shield Appeal. I was leader of a Girls Only Day Group for three years where I was able to show love like Jesus showed love. Over the years I’ve been mentor, mum, sister and aunty to many of those whose path was so very similar to my own and had felt broken, lost and rejected.
God is the reason for my transformation from a life of pain and shame, and he is still showing me the new beginnings mentioned in that verse. It reminds me that God will find me, and use me, wherever I am.
Do you need help? Call the Salvos at 13 72 58