Updated: Aug 28, 2020
Our church just finished a four-week series called “When God Rewrites Your Story.” It was a very powerful time of testimony. Instead of our pastors delivering the message, this time they invited two men and two women, who are on staff at the church, to share their intimate and personal testimonies.
So, what does “testimony” mean? What does it consist of?
A testimony is essentially your life story. And in the eyes of the church, it’s the story of Christ’s redemption of your life. EVERYONE has a testimony, but not everyone has Jesus. And that’s okay. Hear me out. God gave each of us free-will and the opportunity to accept or deny Him, and I think that’s okay. Because here’s the thing, the God I believe in and know personally, is a God of many, many, many, many chances. He’s also a God that NEVER, hear me, NEVER gives up on us. Whether it takes someone’s entire life to find Him is really up to them. So, wherever you are today, I’d invite you to keep reading and let me share with you some more.
Back to these stories. Many of these stories begin with a “family of origin” story. Essentially answering the question(s) of what it was like to be you in your family? What were your parents, grandparents and your family like? Or maybe what they weren’t like and what you desired them to be. Some of the questions answered or asked were: who did you learn from? Mom? Dad? Grandparents? Strangers? Friends? How did you speak to your younger self? Who were you trying to get attention from? Was attention desired? Or did you prefer to hide? Did everything make sense? Were you trying to find value in your school, sports, activities, friends, work? Did this “family of origin” story shape your later life? How?
These testimonies got into some big issues: addiction, suicide, promiscuity, cancer, materialism, shame, success, cult activity, and more.
Now, some of you may be saying, “so what?” Our world, our media (and access to it) has definitely brought these items to our mainstream conversations. And while our culture has truly done the job of absorbing these topics and releasing them through many mediums, our churches have failed to bring conversations like these forward.
I’m not knocking the church, but if there’s ever been a place that I personally felt nervous to be myself (in the past), it was definitely the church. I think if most of us were honest, church felt like a place where you had to get all cleaned up before you went. To be a part of it, you had to be dressed a certain way, look a certain way, sit a certain way, act a certain way, stand at the right time, kneel, pray, read, sing...AHHHH! So many things to “get right.”
Here’s what I love: Jesus didn’t come to the world to bring church. He came to the world so that we would have LIFE and LIFE MORE ABUNDANTLY (John 10:10). And that life comes when we are free to be who we are, just the way we are.
And some of you are like cool! Let’s pass Jesus a beer! Funny, but, because of His great love for us, He doesn’t want to leave us where we are at when He finds us. So you can save the beer. Jesus wants to change us from the inside out. And as the Bible says, He is living water (John 4:14). As gentle as one might lead an animal to water, He does the same for us (Psalm 23). He does not pull, tug, or push us to the stream. He gently takes us to the water’s edge and makes sure it’s completely safe before offering us a drink or a swim. He reassures us that He will catch us if we fall and He’ll never leave our side (Isaiah 23:3, Isaiah 43:2).
Right now, some of you are thinking, there she goes, spouting off all this religious stuff again. And others are wondering, how did you figure out all this Jesus stuff? And is it real? If so, how do I know? Where do I start? You’re a bit overwhelmed. And others are thinking you don’t know what I’ve done? And then there’s the rest shouting, AMEN! And maybe even more who have very different beliefs and you feel like you’ve found a way that works for you. I know, because I’ve thought about all these things; I’ve been in these places. And again, it’s all okay.
But, if you are still here - if you are still reading, I’d like to have you ponder some of the questions I heard in Sunday’s testimony.
Who’s had the loudest voice in your life? (internal and external)
Do you know if that voice aligns with God?
Do you know what God says about you?
The loudest voice in my life most days, I’ll be honest, is my own. The one in my head. The one trying to figure everything out, trying to guess what will please others, trying to convince me of my worth. Most days, it’s harsh, it’s tiring, it’s broken down, and harmful.
To answer the second question...Well, I know that this voice (the internal voice in my head) does not normally align with God. But, I have to say that for a long time, I didn’t know what that meant. And this is the important part: IT’S BECAUSE I DIDN’T KNOW GOD. I thought I did, I mean, I had grown up going to church my ENTIRE LIFE. How could I (a super over-achiever) not know God? That’s impossible. I mean, I did all the things: classes, camps, trips, fundraisers. How could I not know God?
It’s because I didn’t understand HOW TO KNOW GOD. I had no idea what God said about me.. I know what I thought He had been saying my whole life. But, to answer the final question, I had never heard the TRUTH about what God says about me.
I had tried many times to read the Bible. I had taken classes on Church history, I had sat in on Sunday school classes, I had listened to friends and family members, and I had been a student of life. I had prayed so many prayers, I was sprinkled and dunked (at 2 different churches). But I kept striving. I kept trying to be a good person, and y’all, that’s just impossible. Ask my parents -heck ask my husband! But, I had never gone to the source.
What does going to the source mean? It means I had never heard, nor read what Jesus said about me. I had never really gotten through the first 3 books of the Bible (I thought it was in chronological order). I had never attended a GOSPEL-centered church. I had never studied the Bible. And while I prayed, most of my prayers were self-centered prayers - focused on material wants and needs. And while He answered a lot of those, He also didn’t answer some and I didn’t understand any of it.
So how did I get to the source? I kept seeking, I kept asking, I kept reading. I kept putting myself in situations to be around people who looked like and talked like what I thought Christians did. And through that process, one random day, the Lord revealed to me the answer I had been looking for. It was in another person’s testimony. It literally all made sense. As I listened to my cross-fit coach GIVE HIS TESTIMONY before he was baptized, I felt this sense of peace and understanding that I had never felt before. It’s like a bunch of my questions had been answered. GOD LOVED ME! AND HE LOVES ME JUST THE WAY I AM…It changed my life!
And now these many years later, as I have been walking close to Jesus and desiring to know Him and all that He says about me, I still get tricked by the voices in my head. I still give into temptation, I still believe the worst about me, I still have fear, I still sin, and I still make mistakes.
So how do I keep going? How do I press on?
It’s a long list, because it’s not just one thing. I wish it were, I wish I could say that I read my Bible every morning and all is well, but I’m not there yet. So here’s a few of the things I do to keep going:
I try again. If I get out of a good habit and start to slip into a bad habit, I forgive myself as quickly as I can and I try again.
I pray. They are sometimes wordy prayers or just simple “help me” prayers.
I seek out friends who I know are grounded in Christ’s love and I ask for them to pray or to help me.
I get into community (almost forcing myself sometimes). I get to church, I call a friend, I go to the grocery store, to the bookstore, to the coffee shop, to lunch.
I get moving. I move my body with yoga, with exercise.
I get sleep. Y’all I’ve learned over the years, that sleep is our friend!
I get into the Word. I read to my Bible. I listen to it on audio.
I don’t buy the things. The shoes, the outfit, the chips, the wine, the cake, or the sandwich.
I write, or journal or blog.
I forgive. I forgive myself and others. Sometimes I find when I’m struggling the most, it’s because I have unforgiveness in my heart. Someone let me down, didn’t call, didn’t respond the way I needed or wanted them to.
There’s probably more to this list. But here’s the thing I find reassuring. We don’t have to be all put together. And in the stories I heard this last month in church, those leaders, they are not there yet either. Here’s the cool thing: we don’t have to do it alone. God didn’t design us to strive to do it by ourselves. So today, I want you to know you are not alone. You are never alone.
God is constantly rewriting my story. But, He started the rewrite when I gave my entire life to Him. When I started making choices that aligned with His heart and His desires and stopped trying to seek my fulfillment in this world. And that my friends, took 30-some-years. But He was ever-present, ever-waiting, and ever-faithful.
He wants to do the same for you, but He won’t drag, pull or push you to the water. He’ll always be there. And when you are thirsty, you can come to the edge and find Him.
My story is long and sometimes exciting, sometimes boring. I’d love to share that with you someday and I probably will. It’s my personal testimony. Some of you may have heard snippets and pieces of it, and some haven’t. I’ve learned that it's sometimes hard to share it all. But right now, if this touched you, if it sparked something in you and you really need to hear more, please reach out. I’d love to chat with you. I'd love to answer your questions. I’d love to hear about your story.