I have a secret I’d like to share. I have a confession that I want to open up about. It’s something that I’ve not been proud of but God has and continues to work in and through my life and opens my eyes to see how great he really is. Are you ready for my secret? Here it is…
I hate my testimony.
A number of years ago, I finally got out of the military and returned home. I was going to stay in Mississippi but I realized the job market wasn’t all that great and all I could pull was a job at the local Wal-mart store. That wasn’t my thing so I decided to return home.
I worked for a construction company for about 3 or 4 months before moving on. I finally got involved in at Grafton Christian Church. I enjoyed being back at church which was the first time I had returned in a long time. I was reacquainting myself with fellowship with believers.
My best friend, Paul and his dad were conducting a Youth Group, which I was, somehow, given the title Youth Group Assistant Leader. It was a title I didn’t earn and it was a title that I didn’t deserve. I sure as heck wasn’t living the Christian life. I had one foot in church, one foot in the world. I was trying though. In all honesty, I was simply struggling to make sense of God and why things occurred the way they did in my life.
Then, one day, right after church there was a group of young people going out to New York on a mission’s trip to feed and clothe the homeless. I got into the back seat of the van and just began talking with them. One of the individuals asked me, “Are you going with us?” I said, “No, I didn’t sign up.” Then the Missions Trip Leader said, “We just had someone cancel because they got sick so we have an opening.” So, I said, “Sure, I’ll go.” I raced home, got a change of clothing for my overnight stay in New York and went out with the group.
We arrived at our hotel and were briefed as to what we will and should expect when we go out and meet people. One of the first objectives we had was to unpack our things and then write out our testimony. They reasoned with us that writing out our testimony were to help us become familiar with it because in sharing what Christ has done in our lives, we needed to keep it short. So, our testimony should not last more than five minutes because we don’t have much time with these people.
My immediate thought was, “Only five minutes? How in the world am I going to share ALL that God has done in my life in less than five minutes? Sharing the news of Jesus and his work in my life would take years.” So, we went off to our rooms and then I began to work on my testimony. I got a piece of paper and a pen and I was ready to write.
Nothing came of it. I sat there while the other guys were making a mess of the room and goofing off. Finally, after several minutes, one of the guys looked over and asked me, “What are you doing?” I glanced up quickly and said, “I’m trying to work on my testimony.” And the other guys were like “Oh yea, we should probably work on that.”
I continued to look down at my blank piece of paper and try to formulate some thoughts but still nothing came of it. I had nothing to say. I know when and where I came to know Christ. I remember the event like it was yesterday. Despite my intimate knowledge, nothing came to me.
I ventured out with the rest of the group into the neighborhood to begin ministry. I was, of course, freaking out because I had no testimony to give. I was afraid someone would actually ask me, “What has Jesus done for you?” My response would be nothing because that is exactly what I had written down-nothing!
Of course that never happened. We went out and handed out clothing like jackets and blankets as well as Bible tracks to people passing by and then we headed back to the hotel. The following day, we had a time of worship and a short message. We ate breakfast and then we headed out to a soup kitchen and helped to feed the hungry. After that, we were heading home.
On the way home, I thought about my testimony and how I couldn’t come up with any words to describe what God had done in the past. I am sure my ongoing struggle had something to do with it as well but it was like a thorn in my side, something I had to figure out.
As time passed, I was involved in a new church, Abundant Life, and I had an opportunity to preach. I wanted to get my testimony nailed down. I worked on my sermon, “It Ends Where It Begins” and did my absolute best to make sure I knew my testimony. The sermon clocked in around 47 minutes. That is pretty far off the five minutes that I had when I was on the mission’s trip.
One of the issues I faced was that I considered my testimony alongside the testimonies of others. I love reading and hearing about testimonies. I love reading the stories of transformation that comes only through Jesus. I love watching the expression of hope, love, grace and faith as people share what Jesus did for them.
In fact, I did a short series for my blog in which I reached out to people to share their stories of how Jesus transformed them. You can read their stories here: http://echochristblog.com/?s=jesus+changed+my+life
To me, I always felt like I needed to have a great testimony and while I struggled with some things before coming to know Christ, I was rather young. Not to dismiss the serious issue this is, but the hardest thing I faced as a child was the untimely death of my father who passed away when I was just 11 years old. That was huge and it still has a hold on me to this day.
Yet, when I read of people who grew up and were involved in drugs, alcohol or cults, that means something. When I read of people who grew up with physically abusive parents that means something. I never really loved my testimony because I never went through anything like a major addiction.
It seems to me that I’ve had more struggles as a believer then before I became one. During the blog series, Jesus Changed My Life, I thought about sharing my testimony but I decided against it for two reasons. First, I wanted to step away from the “spotlight” so to say. I wanted others to have the chance to share their story and let Jesus shine through. Secondly, with almost every blog post I share, I put a little bit of my testimony in.
On the website, WordPress.com, I have a Reader tab in which I read the blogs I have subscribed to. I read through the introductions to them once a week. If one title catches my eye, then I read the entire blog and there are some bloggers I read religiously because they are just that good. A few weeks back, I came across a blog which struck a chord with me because it was about testimonies. It inspired me to write this very blog.
You can read the blog that inspired me here: http://stuffthatsrelevant.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/why-no-testimony-is-boring/
In thinking and pondering about this blog, I came to this realization.
I don’t have a testimony, I am a testimony.
My testimony isn’t about what I’ve gone through; it is about what I am going through. Every day God’s mercy is new which means he is still working in and through my life. My testimony is ongoing because I am growing and maturing and sometimes I am stuck in a state of dryness. Through it all, Jesus is there!
I do have a past, which includes the death of my father, a time of sexual abuse, a struggle with pornography and lust, depression, anger and insecurity. Those are things that have weighed me down and sometimes they continue to rise against me, to this very day!
A testimony isn’t about the stuff that happened to you, it’s about sin and death which are very real. My testimony isn’t about God saving me from fits of anger and a period of depression. My testimony isn’t about God helping me cope with the death of my father or a struggle of watching his beautiful daughters take their clothes off. No, those are aspects of my testimony but the underlining theme is Jesus Christ brought me out of death and gave me life! He saved me from death and power of sin by giving up his life for me.
My testimony is about Jesus saying, “Father, forgive Michael for he knows not what he is doing.”
My testimony is about Jesus saying, “It is finished.”
My testimony is about Jesus saying, “I am with you always.”
I am forgiven. I am free. I am loved.