I don’t want my blog to become an 8th grade girl confessional. I don’t want to be forever known as “queen of the over-share.” (I skate the line.) However, last night I had a series of notable moments and I thought I’d share the wealth.
It all surrounds testimony.
For the uninitiated, the word “testimony” is a standard Christian term. We testify to the way Jesus loves, cares, and protects us; we testify to His work in us and through us; and we testify to His power to change lives, ours in particular. The Bible exhorts Christians to always have a testimony ready to share. It’s a key way to encourage other believers and to share Jesus with others (the uninitiated…). Sharing one’s testimony is apologetics no one can argue with. A person’s story and encounter with a personal, living God is theirs alone. Hands off, Jack.
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God…” 2 Timothy 1:8.
I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame” Psalm 119:46.
Two women in a class I’m taking at church shared their testimonies last night. There were tears in and among stories of heartache. I had to turn away from their pain a few times. I could see it was cleansing experience for them. And it glorified the God who stood before them, beside them, and in front of them through the storms. It was an exercise in authenticity. I appreciate that.
I left encouraged and tossed about my own story in my heart.
After years of searching for the meaning of life and love (la,la,la)—and stumbling around in my own brokenness—I came across Jesus and He fit. I loved Him a lot. And out of that love came a wild zeal for sharing my faith. I shared on the streets sans a sandwich board, and knocked on doors. I offered bits and pieces of my story, but generally I veered away from any detail. I talked about Jesus and the changes He made in my life. God used my zeal to win others to Himself that first year. I used my zeal to drive away most of my old friends.
When the opportunity came up to work at Christian ministry in Colorado, I jumped at the chance. I envisioned a national platform to preach hope into hopeless lives and situations. It was all about Jesus.
The first two years at this Colorado ministry (that we know and love), I spoke at multiple venues. Crisis pregnancy center banquets were my least favorite, but the most lucrative financially. Campus ministries lit me up. I worked with Campus Crusade and Intervarsity on and off for seven years. They’d organize an event, wheat paste a few million signs, and I’d fly in. I shared my story in detail with vulnerability and self-deprecating humor. Afterward I’d talk and pray with students for an hour or two. I “planted seeds” of faith–another standard Christian phrase–but my outreach turned out to be less evangelistic and more focused on ministry to Christian students. I became a repository for confessions involving abortion, incest, rape, abuse, and all manner of sin. Vulnerability begets vulnerability
I loved protestors and students on the left. I felt deeply connected to them. Once or twice Christians protested me. I leveled them from stage when they lobbed judgements at those who’d come to hear me. At the University of Pennsylvania I roared into the mic at a Christian protestor who didn’t like an answer I gave during a Q&A, “Your self-righteousness, sir, is a stench in the nostrils of God and far more offensive than any human being in this auditorium.” The gay kids gave me a standing ovation. The Christian kids in the front row shifted nervously in their seats. In the end, we ate pizza together in the Christian house, and they began a dialogue that I’m told continues today.
And they overcame him by the blood of them by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” Revelation 12:11.
This is such a powerful scripture. At times it fueled my zeal on stage. But overtime, I lost touch with God for a variety of reasons and felt pained by preaching about someone I wasn’t particularly connected with. My testimony felt hollow and so very old. I lamented why people weren’t interested in my life now. Surely, every day miracles and spiritual growth (or lack thereof) were important?
My zeal became a financial transaction. I only accepted speaking engagements if money was involved.
Last night after I listened to these two women share their stories, I felt convicted about the flippant, angry way I’ve viewed the testimony of God’s original miracle in me. I left church amazed by my friends (who know who you are) and I… who spent years sharing sometimes salacious and intimate details of our lives with strangers. Yes, people were encouraged. Yes, lives were changed by our testimonies. And yes, we gave and gave and in the end paid a steep price. But there’s always a price. Look at Noah.
So there was sorrow last night, and also the ability to uniquely pray for the two women who shared. But there was something else. I believe God spoke to my heart. I believe He said that the testimony He’s writing now is far more powerful than anything in the past. I have faith in this promise, and when my faith falters as it often does, I know friends stand in the gap. And for that I’m encouraged to press on.