There are unexpected ways we need to learn and re-learn to claim the forgiveness won for us by Jesus Christ. Rae is now happily married. But when she was a telephonist in the 1960’s, away from her family, she fell pregnant through a fleeting relationship. It was the time when you did not usually keep the child.

Offered a place in a home for unwed mothers, Rae went interstate, to Geelong. Instead of entering the home, she found her way to live for nine years as a helper for a single mother of six children. The woman proved to be a most chaotic person with multiple personalities and no idea of budgeting. She fell pregnant yet again, this time to her priest. Despite all this chaos, Rae was able to keep and love her own child.

She was determined that she would not let her child down, but she did feel that she had let God down.

Her father died. Her mother suffered a stroke and was cared for by Rae’s sister. And Rae was interstate feeling totally alone.

Then her sister wrote. It was springtime in the Adelaide Hills, and Rae was even more alone.

She found herself praying in a park in Torquay, “Lord, I’ve reached the end. I can’t keep going.”

She saw a grey tunnel with no light. There was no positive future for her child.

She heard a voice cut through her sobbing: “Rae, I did not tell you to be here. You can go home.”

Things fell into place. Her mother provided a home. One morning, after the years of living hand to mouth, bills unpaid, living by candle light when the power was cut off, Rae found herself putting out the bin and thinking, “This is what it’s like to be part of a normal community.”

She prayed for a husband who would be a father to her son, who would care for her mother, and who would sometimes have to go away with his work! A fine man married her. Her mother lived with them. Her son had his own Dad: “It’s meant everything to him.” And, yes, he had times away with work.

She knew Christ had forgiven her everything: “I know he has.”

So what did she still have to learn? After all that it came as a surprise when her mother died. Rae was looking at the stars on a cold June night, thinking of her mother.

“I had a vision of my mother as a nineteen year old, young and happy — joyous. I saw all of this, yet I could not forgive myself. I saw such a vision of joy, yet just then all I could feel was self-pity.”

It was one more thing she had to learn about forgiveness: to forgive herself. To take hold of Christ’s forgiveness and to forgive herself for her ungratefulness at that joyful and precious gift.

“I am still learning. I am learning to yield to what the Lord says. I’m really made aware that when Jesus told Peter that Peter would deny him, Jesus knew beforehand that he would. Yet he forgave him. So he knew about me beforehand, and how I would run. I feel he foresaw my sin, and he forgave me. He is concerned and interested in his children.

“The other day we were doing a crossword. I said, ‘What does exculpation mean?’ My husband looked it up. ‘It means free from blame — acquit,’ he said. That’s it! That’s what’s happened to me!”