I Cleaned Up My Life—Why?
I GREW up near the city of Liège in eastern Belgium. My early life as a young girl was far from happy because my parents had separated in the early 1960’s. I was less than 10 years old at the time.
My father, with whom I lived, had never shown much inclination to work, and this caused all sorts of problems. He never took much interest in me either, and so I would come and go pretty much as I pleased. This left him unperturbed, since he very often slept elsewhere, and would not return home for days.
I left school when I was 14 and began to work. This made me feel that I had become an adult, and so I started to smoke, drink and go out with boys. The company I kept was not good, and little by little I became involved in the way of life of these associates. At the outset, of course, I didn’t do anything really bad, but I was inevitably slipping downhill toward immorality. Yet, I didn’t see why I should act otherwise, since I really had no purpose in life.
Deeper and Deeper into Immorality
At the age of 15 I got a job as a waitress in a hotel near the city of Spa, and it was there that I had sex relations with a boy for the first time.
When I was 16 I lied about my age and obtained work as a barmaid. Here I struck up a friendship with one of the bar owner’s sons, and soon was regularly spending the night with him. Later, I switched and started going with his younger brother.
Things quickly went from bad to worse when one of my “lovers” introduced me to homosexual-type acts. Soon I became more involved in degrading sexual practices.
About this time I was forced to find other employment. The man I was then living with wanted to marry me and take me with him to Morocco. But I became suspicious when overhearing some of his conversations with a Moroccan friend. I concluded that they intended to use me as a prostitute to support themselves.
The police now took my case in hand, and when my father finally realized what was happening, he put me under the charge of my older sister. But to show everybody that I was going to do what I wanted to do, I went out with a young man and committed fornication and unnatural sex acts. I would do things like this without the slightest twinge of conscience. And yet, rather than such an immoral way of life bringing me peace of mind and happiness, I kept growing more discontented and depressed.
A Way of Hope Opens
Late in 1971, when I was living with my sister and her husband in Liège, a handbill advertising a public talk sponsored by Jehovah’s Witnesses was slipped into our letter box. Seeing the handbill called to mind my first contact with the Witnesses three years before, when I was 14. I had accepted a lady’s offer of a home Bible study, but it was discontinued after a few studies when my father raised strong objections. Later, I learned that this Witness often had tried to contact me, but she was never able to since I was away so much of the time.
I thought of those earlier Bible discussions as I examined the handbill, and I wanted to attend this lecture. But I didn’t go since I was looking after my sister’s two small children and was afraid that they might disturb the audience if I took them along. A few days later, however, two Witnesses called at the home and their comments about God’s being interested in us and our welfare really impressed me.
These Witnesses took note of the interest I showed, and my address was passed along to another Witness. When this Witness eventually called and offered to study the Bible with me on a regular basis, I readily accepted. My sister and her husband also joined in the studies.
As the seeds of Bible truth began to penetrate my heart, my way of viewing things radically changed. With horror I realized that the life I had led for the previous three years had been totally contrary to the way that our Creator desired people to live. I could see the wisdom of God’s laws that condemn fornication, homosexuality and unclean conduct. These practices, it was obvious to me, don’t bring true satisfaction or happiness.
But what did God think of me, in view of my being so deeply involved in immorality? How heartwarming it was to learn that his love extends to all kinds of persons, including gross sinners! The words in the Bible at Romans 5:8 have been a real encouragement to me, opening up the prospect of a happy future in God’s favor. That scripture says: “God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Think of that! God takes the initiative in showing love to humans, even extending that love to persons while they are yet deeply involved in wrongdoing. My heart was moved to want to serve this merciful God, whom the Bible identifies by the name Jehovah. Especially was this my desire as I began to appreciate Jehovah’s grand purpose to wipe out this present wicked system of things and create a righteous new system. I came to have real faith in such Bible prophecies as the following:
“There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell. Hence, beloved ones, since you are awaiting these things, do your utmost to be found finally by him spotless and unblemished and in peace.”—2 Pet. 3:13, 14.
Since I was now waiting in real anticipation of God’s incoming new system, I was determined to make the necessary changes in my life to be pleasing to God, to be “spotless and unblemished.” I wanted to survive the end of this world into God’s new earth, a prospect that the Bible holds out in these words: “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:17.
However, making the changes in my life wasn’t easy. It is difficult to transform one’s life pattern when one has been doing so many things that are out of harmony with God’s will. How I wished that I had never become involved in immoral living! But by regularly studying God’s Word and praying earnestly to Jehovah God, I received the needed help to change, and it didn’t take me long to do it. I cut off my former bad associations, which helped me to break free of all forms of immorality and to avoid getting drunk. One of the hardest things for me, however, was to give up the unclean tobacco habit. But I did that too. Yet this doesn’t mean that everything now went smoothly for me.
Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for the things we were learning was not shared by my sister and her husband. They did not need to make the radical moral changes that I did to conform to God’s laws. Yet they continued to use tobacco. Also, my brother-in-law became annoyed because of all the time that I devoted to Bible study. So, what would I do? I decided to leave and get a job and an apartment of my own.
I now began sharing the Bible truths that I had learned with others, even speaking the good news of God’s kingdom from house to house. Then, in October 1972, I was baptized in water by Jehovah’s Witnesses to symbolize the fact that I had dedicated my life to our loving Creator. Now I had another decision to make, since my job prevented me from getting to all the meetings of the Christian congregation. I determined to make a job change, and so I prayed to Jehovah about the matter. I feel that he opened the way for me to get other employment.
I now began to consider how I might help my father and younger brother to become acquainted with God’s purposes. So, late in 1972, I invited them to come and live with me, hoping that my Christian example and the things I would show them from the Bible would move them to serve Jehovah God. They accepted my invitation, but soon I was disillusioned. For, instead of accepting Bible truths, my father returned to his former way of life. He wanted me to support him, and he manifested no desire to apply righteous principles in his life. My brother had the same attitude. So I obtained another apartment and moved out.
Once again I prayed earnestly to Jehovah—this time for help to find a job by means of which I could support myself in full-time activity of sharing the “good news” with others. Jehovah blessed my efforts, and I quickly obtained a suitable part-time job. Thus I began the full-time witnessing work as a pioneer in March 1973, and in December 1973 I was appointed as a special pioneer.
After three years in this service, I got married in November 1976. Although my witnessing activities were now limited, I always nourished the desire to undertake once again the full-time witnessing work. Today, I am happy to be able to share again in that rewarding activity.
A Happy, Rewarding Life
As I reflect back on my life just a few short years ago, I’m so grateful that I was moved to respond to God’s love and was determined to serve him with all my heart! What a contrast between my life now and what it was then! I now have peace, contentment and a clean conscience. I would never have imagined that one day I would be able to experience so much happiness. Jehovah is truly very kind and merciful because he has made it possible for me to come to know and serve him. Even decisions that resulted in certain anguish have turned out to be a cause for joy.
For example, when I left my sister’s home so that I could more freely serve Jehovah, she criticized me. She complained that I was abandoning her with all her work and that she would have to care for her children by herself. But since my decision was made after prayerful consideration, I was convinced that I had done the right thing. How glad I was, therefore, when one day my sister got in touch with me and asked that we again study the Bible together! This time she quit smoking, and on May 11, 1974, she was baptized in symbol of her dedication to Jehovah. What joy this brought me!
This moved me to try reviving the interest of other members of my family. Finally, my younger brother accepted Bible truth and dedicated his life to Jehovah. I have also been blessed abundantly in seeing two young girls with whom I have studied the Bible progress to the point of dedicating their lives to Jehovah. Also, my marriage has given a more solid foundation to my everyday life and I am happy to be able to serve Jehovah together with my husband.
How faith-strengthening and rewarding it is to be used to help other persons to serve God! I am convinced that all honest-hearted persons, regardless of how far they may have sunk in a course of wrongdoing, can transform their lives by turning for help to our merciful, loving God, Jehovah.—Contributed.