Discipline Has Been My Salvation
WHEN I was four years old, my parents enrolled me in a calisthenics class. It required practice, and I had to work in unison with other girls. Shortly afterward, I began training to be a dancer. Discipline became part of my life.
My parents were real disciplinarians and expected their children to be mannerly, well-behaved, and respectful. I thought them unfair at times, but now as I look back—having raised three children of my own—I understand the value of discipline. Indeed, I thank my parents for caring so much.
My early training in self-discipline, as well as in working as part of a team, assisted me later in life.
At the age of eight, I contracted rheumatic fever, an illness that confined me to bed. I suffered severe pain in both knees, and I was not allowed to walk for 12 months. My loving family carried me everywhere. Nobody thought I would be able to dance again. But mainly because of the care I received from my parents, along with the skill and patience of our family doctor, I recovered fully and returned to my dancing more determined than ever to be the best.
My parents allowed me to leave regular school at the age of 16 so that I could pursue my career as a dancer. I did this with zeal and enthusiasm. In time, I began training in classical ballet. This demanded more self-discipline than ever. For three and a half years, I studied and trained six days a week.
When I was 19, auditions for the Australian Ballet School were held. Competition for acceptance in this prestigious school was fierce. Only a few were to be selected from all of Australia. To my delight I was one of those selected. Thus, I began 18 months of intense training. The school included classes in ballet, mime, drama, and art. Ballet is a graceful dance form, but it requires real strength to make it appear effortless. So to strengthen our legs, we did programmed workouts in a gymnasium.
Finally, in June 1970, auditions for the Australian Ballet Company were held. Again I was selected, and within a week I had joined the company.
Life in a Different World
Almost before I knew what was happening, I was away from home for the first time in my life and thrust into a very different environment. Our company toured Australia, and then we went to Asia. It was like living in another world with its own rules and standards. There were long strenuous days and nights of work, along with sore, bleeding, blistered feet. But the performances made the hard work worthwhile. It was wonderful out there on stage.
After we returned to Australia, an epidemic of the flu swept through the company, putting many of us out of action. I was unable to dance for three months. Upon returning to the ballet company, I began to have trouble dealing with the life of a dancer—always striving for perfection and restricting any sort of social activity outside of ballet, since both time and tiredness prevented a social life. After all my years of training, was this to be the end of my career?
I began to have crazy, mixed-up feelings. I became deeply introverted and isolated myself. Finally, about a year later, I became ill with a severe allergic disorder called urticaria. As a result, my whole body broke out in swollen, itchy, red lumps that joined together until I was one big, red blob. This was the last straw—I resigned from the Australian Ballet Company. Many months passed before I recovered. Again my parents nursed me back to health.
Marriage and a Family
In 1974, I met a fine young man. He was an actor who owned his own business. We married and traveled throughout Europe. After we returned to Australia, our first child, Justin, was born in 1976. Later, we moved to Perth, the capital of Western Australia, and purchased a hotel. What a change in life-style this meant!
The work load was enormous, since we were trying to run the hotel ourselves. I rose at four in the morning and at times did not finish work until the following morning. To add to the pressure, there were strong demonic influences in the hotel. This slowly affected our lives, especially the life of my dear husband. So after three years, because of marital and money problems, we decided to sell the hotel and salvage what we could of our marriage.
Our family had increased to five with the births of our two daughters, Bianca and Victoria. The hotel didn’t sell quickly, and it was during this time that I started to look to God for help. I remembered the Our Father prayer that I had memorized as a child. It was constantly on my mind, and I was always saying it.
Finally, the hotel sold. However, my husband died of an aneurysm just three weeks before we were to leave Perth for Melbourne. He was only 32. My sorrow was overwhelming, and it was not lessened when a Catholic priest in Melbourne told me that because of the trouble my husband had had with the demons, their bad influence was no doubt with me also. So he proceeded to sprinkle “holy” water all over me and the children and in every room of my mother’s home, where we were staying.
Questions Still Unanswered
Several years passed, and I continued to ask questions about God, but I did not receive any satisfying answers from my Catholic religion. I then made the decision to move our family from Melbourne to the warmer climate of Queensland. There, in Brisbane, we became very involved in church activities. The children attended Catholic schools, and we all went to church regularly, fasted, said the Rosary, and did everything that I thought God required of us.
Since I had not received answers to my questions, I decided to read a portion of the Bible privately every day to see if I could find answers for myself. Eventually I read Matthew 7:7, which amazed me. It simply said to keep asking and to keep seeking. ‘This was easy,’ I thought. So I did just that. I kept on asking God for help to get answers to my questions.
Answers Finally Provided
In retrospect, I can see that it was no accident that Jehovah’s Witnesses called at my door not long after that. What they said sounded wonderful. Even though I listened with interest, I failed to recognize that this was what I had been searching for. So after a few visits, I told the women who called on me not to bother coming back again.
I was very busy at that time early in 1987. My home was in the final stages of renovation, and a good painter was needed to finish everything off. The builder recommended a friendly, respectful, and helpful young housepainter named Peter. Peter spoke lovingly about his wife and children, and he had a fresh, clean appearance. I wanted to have that same look, so I asked him one morning while he was balancing on a plank: “Where do you go to church?”
Upon learning that he was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I badgered him with questions from the time he arrived for work in the morning until he left exhausted in the afternoon. And he was able to answer them all. I began studying day and night, and the Bible started to come alive. Overjoyed, I agreed to a home Bible study for the whole family. It was the most exhilarating time of our lives because of the joy of knowing we had found the truth.
We cleaned out all the rubbish—the things in our minds and possessions relating to idolatry. Bagfuls were removed from our house and sent to the rubbish dump. It was not too long before my children were politely asked to leave the Catholic schools. Their witnessing about Jehovah was not appreciated.
United in True Worship
The four of us are now baptized Witnesses. Justin and Bianca have finished school and are serving in the full-time ministry as pioneers. Victoria is 16 and is still in school. And I am in my sixth year as a pioneer.
We spent six years in a Brisbane congregation, where I assisted two dear elderly women, who soon dedicated their lives to Jehovah God. In 1994 we moved to an area where the need for Kingdom preachers was greater. Now we are serving in a small country town named Charleville in southwest Queensland. Our preaching territory covers a huge area, about as large as Australia’s island-state of Tasmania!
Thinking back to my childhood and my training, I have come to realize how much I benefited from discipline. It has helped me to apply Bible principles and make necessary changes in life. Indeed, to be disciplined now by Jehovah brings sheer joy and the hope of endless blessings for myself and my beloved family.—Proverbs 6:23; 15:33.—As told by Sue Burke.
[Picture on page 21]
With my three children