Craving male attention, disappointment and inspiration from friends lead Fiona to pursue a different kind of love
Although she adored her father, Fiona Purdie found it difficult to cope when he was aggressive and argumentative towards her family after having one too many drinks.
"I believe my need to be loved and accepted by men was very strong, perhaps somewhat due to the difficulties with my dad when I was younger," Fiona explains.
"I struggled with selfishness and sexual immorality; even though my conscience told me that what I was doing was wrong."
Fiona had attended Sunday school and a Christian youth group in South Africa, but she says she did not understand the beliefs of Christianity until she observed the lifestyle of nursing friends at her university.
"They would get up early most mornings and do Bible study together or by themselves in their rooms, went to church and, most of all, they practised what they believed.
"I could see this by the way they did not drink a lot when they went out, they dated boys that shared the same Christian values and they were always kind and caring, putting others before themselves," she shares.
"One girl in particular had an 'air' about her; she expressed a joy, love and compassion no matter what was going on around her. I wanted what she had."
She started attending church with these friends out of interest and, while in her second year of university, one particular song during the service struck a chord with her.
"It was a hymn that talked about the fact that we are covered by grace (God's kindness) even though we don't deserve it," Fiona recalls.
"I knew I needed God's love and forgiveness to really live. Somehow I also knew that if I did not trust in Jesus there was not much point in life and I would not go to be with Him when I die."
After the service Fiona prayed with the pastor, asking Jesus to forgive her for her sins, but despite this she still wanted to live as she had been before.
"I was dating a man at the time and, even though I knew it was wrong, we continued to have a sexual relationship. We did talk about this and decided to stop, so I went off the contraceptive pill (thinking we would abstain) and then fell pregnant at age 21," she confesses.
"I was young, very proud and stubborn and felt as though I had no other option but to marry my baby's father, knowing that he was abusive. I believed this was the 'right and expected' thing to do. Looking back now, I see this wasn't true as my parents had offered to help me but that was not what I wanted. I honestly thought I would be able to change him and we could work it out."
Fiona remained married to this man for 16 years and says she "slowly drifted further and further away from God".
"I had no direction and life was tough but I only fully realised my need for God after I got divorced and hit rock bottom," she admits.
That was when Christian friends around her and the power of music had further impact in her life.
"I knew my friend Jenny had been placed in my life for a reason. She supported me no matter what and gave me inspiring Christian music to listen to," Fiona says.
Like a loving and forgiving father, Fiona knew it was not too late to re-dedicate her life to God, despite all her mistakes and sins.
"I remember praying and thanking the Lord for showing me, so clearly, that He cared about me and had never stopped caring," she recalls.
"I knew this because He had provided me with Jenny and a wonderful church where I felt comfortable and loved."
Fiona believes God also guided her to a lovely Christian man, Graham, who she is now happily married to.
"One evening I was on a dating website 'chatting' to some random male when Graham, whom I had met at roller-skating, was also chatting to me on Skype," she recalls.
"Graham was a perfect gentleman and the other man was trying his best to get me talking about things of a sexual nature. I felt that God used that to show me who the better man was. I prayed, took my name off the dating site and finally let God take control of my life."
"Jesus provides me with the unconditional love, forgiveness and the understanding of the bigger picture that I need," she concludes. •