This month, we’re keeping it simple. Or at least, it SEEMED simple when I assigned it. We will be sharing our testimonies. August’s theme is ETERNITY and the aspect of eternity that is particularly of interest to me is sharing the gospel with people. And I can’t think of a better introduction to that, than sharing our own stories of what life before God looked like, what life with God looks like now, and the moment or season that sparked belief in us.
I realized early on that the task of sharing one’s testimony is a bit daunting. Most of us have a Rolodex of events and images in our lives that can sometimes play on loop. And often, we replay the good and the bad stuff without discretion. I know if you’re anything like me, your brain has a hard time shutting off. So the thought of summing up your life and experiences into something coherent, and helpful, and inspirational, and honest, and authentic, and and AND…that’s a lot to ask.
Maybe we should just talk about our favorite shows on Netflix instead…
But I DO want to make a distinction here. My TESTIMONY isn’t meant to be my entire HISTORY. We’ve all heard THOSE “testimonies” haven’t we? We’ve even SHARED them. You know what I’m talking about. You’re 20 minutes in and then a phrase such as “So yeah and then in SIXTH grade, I had Mrs. Granville for homeroom and all in all 1991, in particular, was pretty good, but math was super hard and I broke my wrist that November so no basketball season for me…” and no matter who has been listening to you thus far (and God bless them in perpetuity for doing so), they probably tuned out somewhere around your preschool years.
The above example is not a testimony. It seems to me like the making of a biography, one that will hopefully receive the necessary changes and “punch-ups” from your editor before it goes to print.
I think (and maybe you would agree) that it’s a bit easier to share a testimony if it’s not your own. Take Paul for example. Yes, THAT Paul. To share HIS testimony with all of you, I would say something like this:
Paul (who was then named Saul) was a very mean and sadistic individual, harming and murdering Christians for a good part of his adult life. Then one day, he was on this road to a city called Damascus and he saw a huge burst of light and heard the audible voice of the Lord saying, Saul, why are you persecuting me? Once Saul knew that it was the voice of God, God told him to go to the nearest city and wait for instructions. When Saul tried to open his eyes, he was blind and remained so for the next three days. God sent a man named Ananias to (reluctantly) care for and restore the sight of Saul. When Saul’s sight was restored he believed and was baptized. His change was so dramatic, absolutely no one trusted him and it took him a long time to prove his newfound integrity and authenticity to people. Even though he was imprisoned many times and SEVERAL attempts were made on his life, he preached the Good News of Jesus Christ until his dying breath.
Testimonies DO function as mini-biographies, but obviously more abbreviated, as you can clearly see! Did I leave a lot out? Yes. Did I get the gist? Yes. Capture the main points? Definitely. He, I would assume, had a childhood of sorts. It's not addressed. He also had a lot of solitary time in jail cells, and SO. MANY. BOAT RIDES. Paul’s life was VAST. And even though you were not part of the foundation of the early church and the modern missionary movement, and even though you wrote NONE of the bibles, let alone nearly half of the New Testament, your life is vast as well. But the point of testimony isn’t to cover everything or tie a story up in a neat little bow at the end. Both those things start AND END conversations, No, our testimonies are a tool to enter into meaningful dialogue and relationships with others. Our testimonies should engage with others and be a jumping-off point for MORE engagement, questions, and discoveries. We want to share in a way that keeps the conversation going!
So that’s what we hope to do this month. I’m so proud of my blog writers. I always ask them to put themselves in the passage or the shoes of whomever they’re writing about, but it can be a bit disorienting and fearful when that lens is turned inward. My prayer for them as it is for all of you reading is a common one for me: GRACE. Grace in the writing, grace in the reading. Grace with our brothers and sisters and with ourselves and someone else’s story may affect us in a way we weren’t expecting or bump up against some trauma we believed long put to bed.
As you read with us this month and think about what it looks like to share your own testimony, just start with this straightforward three-step approach (as mentioned in paragraph one): Life before Jesus, moment/season that sparked interest/belief, life with Jesus now. Hopefully, that doesn’t sound too daunting. I love hearing testimonies, and if you don’t mind incredibly thoughtful and poignant follow-up questions, I’d love to hear yours someday. If you’re so inclined to share, email me at [email protected]
Until then…happy reading.
P.S. I'm sure if Paul was asked to give his testimony, it would've looked different than the one of him that I shared. And let's be PERFECTLY HONEST, knowing Paul it would've been on the longer side. Which is totally fine. Love you, Paul.