I love sharing my story, or ‘testimony’ as we Christians like to call it. At least, I do now. I didn’t always. I used to think it was so boring it wasn’t worth sharing, or worse, that I didn’t even have one. I mean, I grew up in church. I knew what a ‘good’ testimony was—and mine was not it. I never killed anyone, done drugs, had cancer, limbs amputated or broken the law. I’ve followed God my whole life, and loved it. Truth is, I’ve loved God as long as I can remember.
And that was my problem.
See, I knew how a testimony was supposed to work. I attended the ‘How to Write Your Testimony’ class. Literally. Teen Missions, who I went on my first two short term mission trips with, ran a class on it. One I failed miserably.
Four sections, that’s what a real testimony is supposed to have: your life before Jesus, your turnaround experience, how your life has changed since accepting Jesus and a Bible verse that’s been helpful along the way. Easy.
Or, it would have been, if I’d had any of those first three. I had a favourite Bible verse, but that was it. I remember so vividly sitting on a log after the testimony class staring at those four headings on my page while the rest of my team busily filled their pages. My page was empty. I had nothing. No before, no experience, no after.
I was just about crying by the time one of my leaders came over to check on my progress. Everyone knows a Christian is supposed to have a testimony! Could I have been any more of a failure? But it didn’t seem to bother my leader. She just asked what my story was. So, all apologetically, I told her.
I’d been in love with Jesus my whole life. One of my earliest memories was of sitting on a swing in my backyard when I was about four years old making up songs to sing to him. I’d always thought of my relationship with God a bit like a child with their parents. When a child is born, they don’t understand how the relationship with their parents works or how they came to be there. They just know that those two people belong to them. The older the child grows, the more they understand just how that relationship works – the details, the sacrifices, the love.
I didn’t understand about atonement, salvation, lordship, the trinity or anything like that as a child, but I knew that Jesus loved me and I loved Him, and He was everything to me. As I grew, so did the knowledge of what that relationship meant.
I’ll never forget the look on that leader’s face when I finished. Here I was apologising and she was amazed. “That’s the best testimony anyone could have! Do you know how many people would wish they had your story?” I’m sure I stared at her in utter confusion for a while, but slowly her words sank in and I realised that not only did I have a testimony, but I was proud of it. It wasn’t a story of finding grace in the sewers or mercy in chains but of love and relationship. More than that, it was my story of God – and no one could take that from me.
I was thankful for that a few years later as—on another short term mission to a different country—I stood in front of a classroom full of teens, sharing my story. They listened, they applauded politely, and then they asked “but when did you become a Christian?” I told them again that I didn’t have a turnaround experience, and they – very politely – told me I wasn’t a Christian. So I told them again about God in my life. And they asked again about the day I’d chosen to become a Christian. It was so strange, having to try to convince them that I truly was a Christian. Like they were telling me my story wasn’t good enough.
Turns out, being a Catholic nation, lots of people there call themselves Christians without actually knowing Jesus at all, so the teens’ confusion was understandable, but it did challenge me to once again own my story. Not to change it to suit someone else’s expectations or be ‘more impressive’ than it is (after all, everyone loves a good complete turnaround experience story!) but to know that this is the story God has given me, and I should be proud to share it.
God gives us all different stories. We are witnesses to his working in our lives, however that may be. Whether your story has four parts, one part, a gigantic turnaround experience, or is simply a tale of a life in love with God, you have a story and no one but you can tell it. No one but you has your story. No matter how long, short, predictable or thoroughly exciting your story may be, you can be proud of it because it’s yours. No one else in the entire world, not even those closest to you, has the story God has given you and no one else can share it but you.
So get out there and tell it because there is incredible power in the truth of God in our stories. And you have no idea how many lives God might change simply because you shared it.