I was brought up in a poor home in a one-parent family. My father left my mother and her three small children without providing for us. I was three years old, my sister was four and my brother was almost a year old.
We lived in a council house and money was scarce. The benefits we lived on barely covered the rent and bills. I remember feeling hungry and cold quite often—my mother never had money to buy coal for the fire or much food. She was a proud woman and it took years for me to persuade her to allow us to have free school meals. I envied the dinners and puddings my friends would eat at school (though they complained about them) because I was going home to a lunch of thin soup. I also remember regularly hiding from the rent man, the gas man and electricity man.
It was a difficult life when I look back, but we knew no better and could probably be described as reasonably happy. It wasn’t until I was ten or eleven years old that I started to realise that in relation to some of my peers at school, I had been dealt a tough set of cards.
When I went to secondary school, we were taught Religious Studies for the first time, I heard the story of Jesus dying on the cross, though He was innocent of any crime. I wondered why He had not proclaimed that innocence. I could not get a satisfactory answer to this question at the time, but my teenage years brought lots of issues to a shy, lacking in confidence girl like me and I forgot about Jesus and His innocence until I was 16.
I went to Sixth Form College after school. One of the staff members there was a local Church of England vicar. He ran discussion groups and I remember being very interested in his talks. I am sure he was a Christian, now I look back. Years later, he married myself and my husband. One particular talk was about Matthew chapter 7, verse 5: removing the plank from your eye. I seemed to understand this very clearly and I think the vicar saw that I did. He tried to speak to me about it later, but I fobbed him off—something I now regret.
I grew up, went to work, got married and had a child. My first daughter was born when I was 28 years old. We had to move to the south east of England for my husband’s job. My husband worked very long hours and I did not know anyone. I was very lonely on my own at home with a new baby. It was a difficult time for me. But God was already working on my behalf. My daughter was 18 months old when my next door neighbour, who was a Christian, invited me into her home for a coffee morning. She had invited a speaker from her church to do a talk. I was not particularly interested in the talk, but was just desperate to get out of the house and have some company.
The speaker explained why Jesus died on the cross. This was the answer to that question I had asked all those years ago. It was like a piece of a jigsaw that fitted into place and made the whole picture clear. The fog lifted, I realised that I am a sinner and need salvation and that God provided His Son to die for my sins. It was an absolute revelation. I went home and told my husband later that evening that I believed what this man had said. I think he was just happy that I had found a new interest!
I have been praying for my husband for 28 years. He is still not a believer, but I have come to realise that God had to do a lot of work on me before he changed my heart. He is still working on me and I don’t know if my husband will ever be saved, but I continue to pray and hope.