At church today, Pastor Calvin challenged us to know our testimony, and to be able to communicate it clearly in less than one hundred words. Sounds tricky, yes?
I don’t know about you, but to me, “testimony” can be so heavy, so overwhelming. For a long time I thought of a person’s testimony in the context of a formal presentation of “How I Became a Christian.” And there are certainly times where that full-blown version is appropriate, and maybe necessary.
Several years ago, another pastor lessened my anxiety about testimonies, saying it was really just a story about how the Lord has worked/is working in your life. That’s true, and it was a little bit helpful, but …
I still wrestled with this idea that ordinary people (like me), with ordinary conversion stories (like me), lacked the ability to relate to – and intrigue – someone who was considering the Christian life.
Let’s just keep it real: when someone (like me) starts their story with, “I grew up in church, and when I was twelve years old …” that is the beginning of a total snooze-fest testimony for me.
Part of a powerful testimony is the change component, right? Evangelists being paid to share their testimonies seem to have conversions on the heels of a terrible accident, an illness, a loved one’s death, a rock-bottom moment in substance abuse. No doubt about it, those are the powerful befores and afters that get people excited!
On the other hand, when someone’s been living the Christian life since they were seven, we can all rejoice that they were saved at such a tender age, but don’t you want to know their story didn’t end then? Don’t you want to hear that they’ve somehow been changed for good along the way?
Don’t get me wrong, I tear up just about every time a little one gets baptized. Praise be to God, and thanks in large part to praying and diligent parents, those testimonies are real, and no less miraculous than ones that happen to people who are 21, 52, or 87 when they make a life-changing decision about Who’s in charge of their lives.
And that’s the rub: children being baptized is a beautiful thing, but where’s the zing in their story? Where’s their opportunity for extreme transformation? After all, when I was twelve and publicly confessed my belief in a living God, I wasn’t exactly living a crazy rebellious life, from whence I would make a supernatural U-turn away from the dark side!
I admit that I’ve often thought of what a boring story mine is, and I’ve wondered how a story like mine, when shared, could possibly interest someone enough to give them a better understanding of the Christian life.
Isn’t that just like Satan? To trick God’s people — whose stories might not be the dramatic ones you hear at revivals and Christian conferences — into thinking that their stories can’t have an impact for the kingdom?
So, while my story might not be dramatic on the outside, it has everything to do with the work the Lord has done – and continues to do – on the inside.
(Cue the word counter.)
There was a time in my life when I thought that being a Christian – and obtaining the Lord’s favor – was a privilege reserved for the morally superior: those who followed rules; always made “right” decisions; made their parents and families proud; and were considered “good” people by others.
In my quest to become morally superior (and make no mistake, stumbling all over the place along the way), I landed myself instead on the top rung of the Ladder of Morality, looking down my nose at other people in judgment and self-righteousness. It wasn’t pretty.
These days, I’m still a work in progress, but the Lord has been gracious to teach me that His love is one that extends to all people, no matter if they’ve followed all the rules, made all the right decisions, won the approval of their families, or carry baggage that exceeds the morally acceptable weight limit.
He loves everyone passionately, and He commands us to do the same. That’s our (my) challenge every day.
Sigh. I couldn’t do it in less than one hundred words. I’ll have to work on that.
In the meantime, be encouraged in your story, no matter where it falls on the ordinary scale. There are other ordinary people waiting to hear it!