If you lived in Australia during the 1980s you’d be very familiar with the story of Lindy Chamberlain. The New-Zealand born Australian woman was camping in Uluru with her family in a public campground when, during the night, her nine-week-old daughter Azaria disappeared from their tent. Lindy had seen a dingo coming out of the tent, and when she checked on her daughter she was gone. Dingo prints were found, and there was blood in the tent, but people soon started spreading rumours about the nature of Azaria’s death and the possibility of Lindy being responsible. The first Coroner’s Inquest confirmed that a dingo had killed her, but the verdict was later overturned. Lindy was forced to spend three years in prison before finally managing to prove her innocence and receiving complete exoneration. In 1992 she received $1.3 million compensation from the Australian government for wrongful imprisonment. As the result of a fourth inquest in 2012, an Australian coroner made a ruling that a dingo dog had taken baby Azaria from the campsite in 1980 and had caused her death.
This week I had the privilege of hearing Lindy speak at an event held by Hillsong Church. What most struck me was her opening statement to the women gathered: “You probably came here expecting me to tell my story, but I’m not going to.” She went on to explain: “What we learn is far more important than what we go through.”
Throughout her talk, Lindy proved the truth of this statement as she shared wisdom no doubt honed by the hardship she’d endured. She spoke about the impact of unforgiveness on our lives, and the freedom that comes when we release our bitterness and resentment to God. A Christian since her early teens, Lindy’s faith has sustained her through intense periods of grief, opposition, scrutiny, and imprisonment.
One of her final remarks was: “A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to a person who isn’t.” She urged us to hold onto the Word as our lifeline, just as she did during her time behind bars.
I loved spending the morning soaking up Lindy’s words. Yes, I imagined what her life must have been like in those horrifying years. But the lessons she’d learnt and the love she had for God was much larger than her story.
Our stories and experiences can be used to impact others, yes, but we don’t have to remain in bondage to the pain, shame, and destruction they have wrought upon our lives. We have a choice to either stay in the past, or move on towards the greater hope that is found in Jesus Christ. And when we are truly His, we begin a new story. We remember the past, yes, but are far more focused on the future He has mapped out for us.
“To all who mourn in Israel,
he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
that the Lord has planted for his own glory.”
(Isaiah 61:3 NLT)