Have you ever wanted to start life over again? I did. This is my story.
I’m the third of four children. From all outward aspects, we were the average suburban family, living outside a large city in eastern Canada. But we were not a perfect family – we had our “hidden secrets,” and our “we don’t ever talk about that” situations.
What people saw on the outside of our home was not necessarily a reflection of the inside. From an early age, there were events that took place in my life that left me with a longing to have a “new beginning.”
A hard beginning
As a teenager, the sudden death of my father was very difficult for me. My father and I were close, and he was my friend. The void in my heart increased with his passing. I was heading into rebellion, but his death – along with the ongoing deterioration of my relationship with my mother – hurled my life into self-destruction.
At nineteen, I left my family and moved to Canada’s Pacific coast, determined to have that new beginning. Within three months, I met Tom. Two months later, we began living together. We fought our way through the next year-and-a-half, and I believed the solution to the turmoil was to get married. The following year, in 1971, we did. In 1973, our son, Pernell, was born. One year later, I was pregnant again. After much turmoil, it was determined that I should have an abortion. Then, in 1976, our daughter Sara was born.
By now our home was like my childhood home – what you saw on the outside was not a reflection of what was taking place on the inside. Once again, I had become a master at covering up the imperfections and pain, longing for a way to wipe the slate clean. By the age of thirty, I was becoming dependent on prescription drugs I took to help with post-abortion syndrome and I experienced depression and thoughts of suicide.
Trying to cope
I took the two children and went back to see my family. I considered staying back East, to try and find a new beginning. I would have done so had my husband not called me several times and persuaded me that the children and I belonged with him, and that if I returned there would be changes. I knew I really loved him and I wanted our marriage to work. So I returned – to make a new beginning.
In 1981, Jonathan was born. My husband was laid off a year later and could not find a job. I went into the workforce. Shortly after that, he stopped looking for work.
Our relationship was as stormy as ever, and my coping mechanism was to turn my energies to a career. I enjoyed the enormous amount of responsibility that came with my position, along with the great rewards of appreciation, elegant dinners, lots of positive attention, and relationships outside of my marriage. But there was a price – long days and weekends at the office, regrets at night and an ever increasing longing within.
Five years later – having barely seen my children, having no relationship with my husband, having unhealthy relationships outside of my marriage, and a career that was going somewhere when I was sober – my longtime friend Barb took me for a walk and said, “Sara, ever since I’ve known you, all you ever wanted was to be a mom and a wife. If you don’t make changes now, you will come home one day and find your kids have grown up without you and you will have missed it.”
I knew she was right. I thought about a solution: if I took the kids and left my husband, ended the unhealthy relationships, cut back on the drinking and the hours at the office, perhaps then I could have a new beginning. In October, 1987, I put the kids in the car and drove away.
Learning of a new love
My first and biggest challenge as a single parent came within weeks, when I tried to obtain custody of our three children. As I had worked for five years outside the home, I could not presume that I would be granted custody. I left for the courtroom that day, very fearful that I would lose my children. Before I left the office, my manager, Jim, offered to pray for me. I had turned to him for advice because he was a gentleman whose life was a marked contrast to mine!
Jim did not smoke, drink, or swear. He was patient, calm, very wise in business and family and faithful to his wife of many years. Definitely a life under control – while mine was out of control. When Jim mentioned prayer, I said “Well great, you pray, I’ll go” – to which he replied, “Sit down.” Then I asked, “Will you be praying out loud?”, to which he answered “yes.” So I sat there, with my eyes open, while he prayed about the custody. As soon as he said “amen,” I bolted for the door.
At the courthouse, my lawyer advised me that I might have a better chance if I were to seek joint custody. But as my husband’s lawyer got up and gave a very uncomplimentary – but true – description of my lifestyle for the past five years, my head dropped. I felt the judge would never consider me a fit parent. Then, because of a technicality, the judge negated my lawyer’s efforts to defend me. I believed my dreams of motherhood were over at that point. Yet to my amazement, a few minutes later, the judge granted joint custody with equal access to each of us.
At last I knew that there was a God who must love me – as Jim had often told me – and that this God had intervened on my behalf. I ran out of there to call Jim. As he answered the phone, I blurted out, “Okay – I want to know more about this God of yours. You obviously have a direct line and I’m prepared to listen.”
Rescued from hopelessness
In the following weeks, Jim shared more with me about Jesus, whom I had always thought of as merely a baby at Christmas and not much more. Jim told me often that God loved me and created me to know him personally. Sometimes when I would come into the office with a hangover, Jim would patiently tell me that the reason I wasn’t experiencing God’s love in my life was because I was insisting on going my own way – and that way was sin. I always thought of sin as murder, stealing, lying... the big things. Besides, I reasoned, I wasn’t any worse than the rest of the people in the office.
As Christmas approached that year, my problems remained the main thing on my mind. For the first time since becoming a mom, I would be spending Christmas Eve and morning alone without my children. On December 22, as I drove Jim to the airport, he said to me, “You know you have nothing left to lose. After thirty-seven years of you being at the controls, you don’t have a home, a husband, or your kids. All you have is your car, and your job – and that’s only because I am your boss. So, why don’t you give control of your life to God and experience a new beginning?”
It wasn’t the first time Jim had made this suggestion. My first response came from my discouragement: “Well, that may be fine for you, but it won’t make any difference in my life. It’s easy for you – your life just goes along smooth no matter what.” Jim again patiently asked if I would repeat a prayer after him. Again I said, “You pray, I’ll listen.” With that, he told me that the Bible said if I confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in my heart that God raised him from the dead, I could be rescued from my hopelessness. I challenged him: “Where does it say that?” He answered. Accurately. Word for word.
So I prayed, repeating what Jim was saying. It went something like this: Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life to you and ask you to come in as my Saviour and Lord. Take control of my life. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.
I never thought at that point that it would change anything, let alone give me that elusive fresh start. However, before I said “amen,” lifted my head and opened my eyes, something profound had happened inside me. I could not explain it, but I knew it was real. For the first time in my life – the emptiness inside me was gone. When Jim told me I was forgiven for all my sins, I knew what he said was real somehow and I felt very free. I didn’t know why, but I knew for the first time in my life that I could really start over.
A new life
In the ten years since that night, there have been many storms to go through. My son, Jonathan, fought a battle with lymphoma cancer. During his treatments, my mother suddenly passed away. My two oldest children have been off traveling the world and had some very frightening and disappointing experiences. But my life slowly changed.
As I began to read the Bible and pray, listen to teaching tapes and then eventually starting to go to church, my responses to life’s turmoil began to change. My old habits of smoking and drinking, angry tirades and unhealthy relationships all began to fade away. The strongest evidence has been that, if I am faithful to read my Bible and to pray, there is always an unexplainable peace that presides over every day and every circumstance.
Working through the ongoing and as yet unresolved issues with my children’s father, having to deal with the day to day aspects of life as a single parent, running a household and working full time... I cannot imagine trying to cope with life alone, without having the assurance that God is in control. I can honestly say that I have a new life. God gave me my new beginning.