The future looked bright for pretty young blonde New Zealander Maria Jones as she began her modelling career in the swinging sixties.
The daughter of a former beauty queen, Maria was already employed in the beauty products business when she met an influential young man who encouraged her to take up modelling. Initially things were going well and he helped her to get some good modelling jobs, but things turned sour when he raped her and left her with a baby. The term ‘Swinging Sixties’ may have sounded progressive, but in reality, having a baby outside of marriage was considered a serious lapse of morality at the time, a ‘stain’ on the reputation of an upstanding church-going Catholic family like hers.
Maria was devastated. She became very depressed and even attempted suicide, but actually things turned out better than she had expected. Maria stayed with a relative in Auckland until after the baby was born, and the expected fierce response from her Father never came. Instead he was surprisingly kind and considerate. She says,
“My life changed for the better when a ‘knight in shining armour’ came along just at the right time. Looking for love, for purpose in my life, and for a way out of this predicament, I rushed into marriage.”
“Looking back, I really married on the rebound. My husband wanted someone to look after and he was very good to me.”
They both became committed Christians and things seemed good for a number years as they worked together at faith and family. They both trained for the Christian ministry and Maria’s husband became a part-time pastor. But, sadly, the relationship didn’t last. Maria blames herself for at least part of the marriage collapse.
“I didn’t want to be a kept woman. I had worked and I wanted to work. My husband just wanted me be to be a homemaker. Eventually the relationship just fell apart.”
Maria was then quickly sucked into the ways of the material world. She tried many avenues to happiness, including a brief flirtation with drugs. Her mother had been a beauty queen, Maria a model, and her father also a “very good-looking man.” She freely admits that vanity was a family problem and realised that it contributed to leading her astray.
“During this period I found a man I would describe as ‘the love of my life’ – my soul mate and best friend for many years. My new partner was initially an atheist (who later became an agnostic) and we found mutual happiness in exploring religion and philosophy, with elements of free love in an era of experimentation.”
Maria tried Buddhism for a while and found that meditation had some apparent benefits. But none of it brought the deep satisfaction she longed for. Eventually, after years of happiness, the relationship ended and she was left devastated when her beloved partner left her.
Negative and disillusioned, Maria says that she became quite bitter.
“I had wanted true love, happiness and peace. I thought I had found it, but for the second time, it didn’t last. I became quite depressed.”
Then, unexpectedly, two Christian friends who were doing some work for her asked if they could pray with her. They were clearly concerned about her unhappy state and Maria was open to anything that might help. Graham and John were strong believers who had committed their lives to Christ and become what she describes as ‘true disciples.’ They prayed a simple prayer and asked God to help her. Maria realised that she had made a mistake and she too wanted to become a true disciple.
“Something happened deep inside me that I can only describe as supernatural. This was not religion, it was something deeper and far more special. A real peace came over me that I had never known before. I soon started attending church and also became a true disciple’with Jesus now at the centre of my life.”
After decades of searching, Maria says,
“I eventually realised that there is a cost involved in being a true follower of Jesus Christ. I had to ‘die to self’ and my own ambitions and let Him take charge. Jesus said,
‘For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.’ (Mark 8:35)
“And the Apostle known as St Paul wrote to the Galatian church,
‘I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’ (Galatians 2:20)”
“I had to choose each day to go God’s way and not my own. I realised that trials actually help us to develop a relationship with God and to develop a strength in that relationship. There is a parable that Jesus told (Matthew 13) where a pearl merchant sold everything he had to buy an old field simply because he knew that a very unique and priceless pearl was buried in that field that would be the greatest treasure he had ever known. My relationship with God the Father through Jesus is the greatest treasure I have ever known.”
Maria adds that after trying so many other ways in life, she eventually discovered that,
“Jesus is what He says he is. He is the way, the truth and the life. I discovered that Jesus is the answer I was looking for and that he has the power to back it up.”
Story by Ralph Burden
Photo: ‘Swinging 60’s Models’ from National Archives UK, no restrictions.