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Sep 23, 2022 293 Margaret Fitzsimmons
Encounter

You Are Priceless

For years Margaret Fitzsimmons endured deep pain and shame—until she heard the four words that changed her life forever…

Broken Childhood

I came into the world in 1945, when war-torn Germany was struggling with damaged infrastructure and millions of displaced people. As a single mother going through a series of relationships, my mom struggled to raise me up. To help pay the rent, my mother would take on extra jobs like sweeping the stairs of the building we lived under, and I would be there with the dustpan trying to help.

My favorite pseudo-Dad was a policeman, a nice man. They conceived a child together, but she didn’t want the baby, so she had an abortion, then left that relationship and started working in hotels. While Mum was downstairs working and drinking with the customers, I was usually alone in the attic bedroom. When she was drunk my mother got cantankerous, and found fault for no reason when she got home. She always left a long list for me, but I could never complete it to her satisfaction. Things got worse, and she ended up in jail one night after fighting with the policeman’s new girlfriend.

From Bad to Worse

After her younger brother emigrated to Australia, my granddad thought it would be good if my Mum and uncle were in the same country. So we followed him to Australia in 1957, and lived with him for a while. Mum got a job as a cook, and I washed all the pots and pans. If she caught me not concentrating on the work, she would throw things at me, like a barbecue fork. Since I was only twelve and often made mistakes, I ended up with scars all over my body. When she was in a drunken stupor, it was even worse. I started to hate her.

We were living at a boarding house by then, and she had met a lot of new people who liked driving into the countryside and sitting under the trees to drink. I was nearly thirteen by then, so she wouldn’t leave me at home, but she would go off into the bush and leave me sitting with whoever was around. On one of those nights, I was gang-raped, but I was too scared to say anything to Mum.

Another night, driving along the highway, a car kept overtaking us and finally pulled us over. It turned out to be undercover police. They took us back to the police station and questioned us individually. When they found out I had been interfered with, a doctor came to examine me. They gave Mum a court summons for a day or two later. But as soon as we got home, she started packing and caught the next train out of town. We ended up in a small town where she got another job as a cook, and I was put on as house maid. It was a hard life, but I learned to survive.

Desperate for Hope

Mom hooked up with a fellow called Wilson, and we went to live with him in Tully. He had been in a mental institution after his first wife died. Mum soon corrupted him, and they started fighting when they were drunk. I hated being in the middle of their fights. When Mum fell pregnant, she said, “Let’s take Wilson’s car and go down to Sydney and start a new life. I don’t really want to get married or have this baby.” I felt terrible.

I was tired of being on my own, and had wanted a brother or a sister for years. So, I went and told Wilson. After he confronted my Mum, they ended up getting married, but she held me responsible. She told me I had to look after the baby because she didn’t want her. My baby sister was my world until the day I met Tom. I was sick of all the fighting, and Tom promised to marry me when I was old enough, so I left home. I thought life would be fantastic after that, but it wasn’t. Tom’s mother was lovely. She really tried to look after me, but Tom would get drunk, then come home and abuse me. He kept getting drunk and getting sacked job after job, so we moved constantly. We did marry, and I hoped he would settle down and start treating me better, but he kept beating me and having affairs. I had to escape this misery, so I cleared out and moved to Brisbane where I got a job washing dishes.

Late one night after work, I got off the bus and saw someone standing across the road. I knew it was Tom. Although I was terrified, I stayed near the light in case he tried something stupid. He followed me, but I told him I wouldn’t go back and wanted a divorce.

A New Beginning

When I got home, I packed my bags, took a train to Sydney, and got on a bus out of town. For months, I had nightmares about him chasing me. I buckled down and got a job as a domestic helper at the hospital, where I made new friends.

There was another young girl with poor English who was a lot like me. We got along well, and started our nursing training together, then worked at a hospital after our training. She knew a chap that was doing National Service in the army. When he invited her to a ball, she got me, a blind date so we could go together. I wasn’t impressed with the date, but it was a way to get out.

One of the army caterers serving the meal started paying me attention. I thought he was better than the blind date, so we had a few dances and got on well. We kept on seeing each other, but after a few weeks Peter told me he was being sent to do an aviation course. I felt terribly disappointed. We had shared our life stories, so he knew what was going on, but he didn’t give up on me and kept in contact.

The more I got to know him, the more I liked him, but I didn’t want to get married again after the first disaster. Eventually, he introduced me to his family, and we got engaged before he finished his training. He was posted to Townsville, where I had lived with Tom. Though I didn’t want to revisit the horrors of the past, I couldn’t say no to Peter. We lived together for nearly two years before we were able to marry legally. Peter had grown up Catholic but stopped practicing in the hurly burly of military training, so we got married in our backyard.

Words That Changed Everything

Sometimes I was lonely because Peter was often away servicing helicopters in the field. I got a job as a high school lab assistant, but we came to realize there was something missing in our life. We had everything, but there was still an emptiness. Then Peter suggested, “Let’s go to church.” The first few times, we sat in the back pew, but as our hearts opened to the presence of the Lord, we got more involved.

We heard about a Marriage Encounter weekend and signed up. It was a real eye opener for both of us. Our hearts were stirred.

On that weekend we learned how to communicate by writing things down. I had never been able to put what I felt into words. Mum had always told me to shut up, so I learnt not to talk, and became unable to share my emotions.

When I first heard the words, “God doesn’t make junk,” I knew those words were meant for me. A wave of emotion overcame me. “God made me. I am okay. I am not junk.” All those years, I had been putting myself down, blaming myself for the awful things that had happened—the rape, marrying someone who drank when I should have known better, the divorce, my mother’s abuse …. I was coming back to life. My heart changed for the better every time I went to Mass or a prayer meeting. I was so in love with God and my husband.

Replacing Hate With Love

Up to this point, I hadn’t ever forgiven anyone. I had put my hurts in the background, and locked them away as if they never happened. When Peter and I got engaged, I wanted to let Mum know. I sent letters, but she returned them “to sender,” so I gave up.

Then, I dreamt that I saw my mother hanging from a tree. Her stark blue eyes were open and staring down at me. I looked at her with pity and said, “God, I dislike her, but not that much.” Somehow, that dream taught me not to hate. Even if I strongly disliked what someone had done, hate was wrong. I forgave Mum completely, and that opened other doors to grace. I softened and reached out again to my mother until she finally responded, and we stayed with her for a couple of days. When my sister called to tell me she had died suddenly of a heart attack, I burst into tears.

After her death, I felt I hadn’t forgiven Mum properly, but counseling and prayers with a good priest helped restore my peace. When I uttered the words of forgiveness, the light of the Holy Spirit penetrated my being, and I knew I had forgiven her

Forgiving Tom was something I had to keep taking back to prayer. It took quite a while, and I had to say aloud more than once that I forgave Tom for the times he abused me, his affairs, and for not looking after me properly. I know I’ve forgiven him. It doesn’t take away the memories, but it does take away the hurt.

Wiping the Slate Clean

Forgiveness isn’t a one-time thing. We must forgive whenever resentment resurfaces. We must continually give up the desire to hold on to grudges, and surrender them to Jesus.

This is how I pray: “Jesus, I surrender everything to you, take care of everything.” And He does. I feel totally at peace once I have prayed that a few times.

It took a long time before I felt strong enough to bring healing forgiveness to the rape. I just pushed it aside. I didn’t even want to think about it. Yet even that was healed once I had presented it to Christ and forgiven my rapists. It doesn’t affect me anymore. God has wiped it clean, because I asked God to come and take away anything that is not of Him.

Now, I hand things over to God as they happen, and a peace washes over me. We have an awesome God, who is forgiving, morning, noon, and night. Whatever darkness we have in our lives, God is there waiting for us to repent and ask for His forgiveness, so that He can cleanse us and make us whole.


ARTICLE is based on the testimony shared by Margaret Fitzsimmons for the Shalom World program ‘Seventy times Seven.’ Margaret lives with her husband in Brisbane, Australia.

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Margaret Fitzsimmons

Margaret Fitzsimmons Der ARTIKEL basiert auf dem Zeugnis von Margaret Fitzsimmons, welches sie für das Shalom World Programm 'Siebzig mal Sieben' gegeben hat. Margaret lebt mit ihrem Mann in Brisbane, Australien.

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