Thursday, April 12, 2012

Reflections - Testimony

Brittany chose a doozy of a topic this week... mainly because I could literally write for days about my testimony (so get comfortable... this could be loooooong!).  Testimony.  That word used to freak me out a bit.  I didn't get it.  I was a perfectly nice person who went to church every Sunday (well, most Sundays anyway), did my obligatory hour, recited the prayers, and then went about my business without any real change.  The people with a "testimony" to share were weird.  To say you were "saved" made you completely nuts.  And heaven forbid you'd ever walk into a church and raise your hands during worship.  That, my friends, would make you a total lunatic.  This was nothing that was ever taught or impressed upon me... these were all things that I came up with on my own because of my traditional religious background.  But that's all I knew... religion.  I knew how to be Methodist, Protestant, or Presbyterian, but I had no idea what it truly meant to be a Christian.

The word Christian, in essence, means "little Christ."  In order to truly put ourselves into that category, we actually need to know who Christ was, what He did, what that meant, and then live out His teachings.  And it doesn't stop there.  We have a responsibility beyond that to tell others about Him, His love, and His great commission: love God, love People, Repeat.  That's Josh's simplistic way to explain the great commission, but really that was all there was to it.  So yes, I grew up sitting in a pew, I knew right from wrong, I had a family with great morals and values, and yet, I had no clue what it meant to love God and love people.  My actions outside of that Sunday morning service were far from pleasing to God and if anything, I was always just trying to please my current group of friends or current cute boy... I loved to be popular.  Sure, people like people-pleasers because they cater to them, but they also compromise who they are for them.  It wasn't until my late twenties that I decided to live my life to please God rather than please whomever I was trying to impress at the moment.  And I have since learned that pleasing God is so freeing and sooo much more rewarding.

It is my theory that just about every Christian has an "Aha!" moment- that moment (or season of life) when we finally stop thinking about ourselves and truly surrender to what God has for us.  I say "surrender" instead of "understand" because I know that we will never fully understand Him.  But at some point, there is a stirring within- a time when you know that there is more to this life than just yourself and what you want, and finally a God-sized light bulb goes off inside.  For some, this happens at a very young age, and I hope and pray that my kids fall into this category.  The funny thing is, I grew up knowing that God existed.  I knew about Jesus.  I knew the stories... but that's all it was: knowledge.  Stories.  Nothing that applied to my life.  I can even distinctly remember moments throughout my adolescence when I felt God's presence... generally when I had hit some sort of "rock bottom" and cried out to Him.  He was only God when I needed Him, but not a God who helped guide me everyday.

I attribute my introduction to true Christianity to my husband.  I often joke that God knew the only way He'd get me in church every Sunday was to have me marry a pastor, so that's what He did.  And it's probably true.  Josh was a youth minister when I met him, and I actually tried not to like him for that reason.  There was no way I was "good" enough to date someone in ministry.  I had so many mistakes in my past, and since he was a pastor, I was fairly certain that he was squeaky clean and deserved a "perfect" woman, as if that's even possible.  But sin is all equal in God's eyes, and even though our sins were very different, they still kept us both out of that "perfect" category.  The difference, however, was that Josh did not let me just stay where I was at, but challenged me every day to be better.  I had spent years making some pretty terrible decisions, but would then put on my nice church clothes and pretend that I was "perfect" and had it all together.  I knew it was sin and I knew it was wrong, and I lived with constant guilt and shame.  I'm going to stop here a moment and let you know that if you feel this way in your life right now (or ever), please know that these emotions are not from God.  The Bible says that every good and perfect gift is from God (James 1:17) so anything that makes us feel less of ourselves, of who He created us to be, is not from Him.  I could go into a whole bit about spiritual warfare, good vs. evil, etc., but I'll save that for another day.  The point is, I was repeating the same patterns over and over again, that vicious cycle of guilt, shame, and pretending I had it all together, until Josh called my bluff.  He saw right through me and cared about me too much to let me continue.  He gave me scripture verses that completely called me on the carpet and convicted me down to the core.  Let me just tell you that our courtship was rough at times because of these moments.  I did not like being told that I had been wrong all along.  I did not like having someone point out that I had no clue that I was truly lost.  But because I'm stubborn and love to be right, I investigated what he was saying.  I began reading the letters in the new testament on my own, finding verses that so blatantly called out my behavior that it shook me to my core.  Someday I may do a blog series on some of these verses, mainly because I know for a fact that they'll be used over and over and over again in my parenting.  My kids will learn them early and hopefully they'll stick.  I grew up with the ten commandments, which seem pretty easy to follow for the most part, but like it or not they'll be growing up with verses about guarding their tongues, telling the truth, staying pure, surrounding yourself with the right people, etc.  I literally had about a six-month-long rude awakening.  And then I read the Gospel accounts, maybe for the first time all the way through, and "AHA!"- I finally got it.  It wasn't until I truly understood how filthy and broken I was that I could appreciated that Christ died for me.  He died.  Brutally... for stupid me.  And for you... no matter how "perfect" or sin-filled you've been.  Can I just get a collectively huge WOW right now?  Even as I type this, I am baffled. 

It was after this moment that I truly fell in love with God.  My love affair with Jesus and His sacrifice began and has been burning strong ever since.  I used to think people who listened to Christian music in their cars were fanatics, but that's who I am now.  And to publicly blog about things like this?  Those people probably should've been committed.  And here I am.  I know what life is like without God because I've been there.  It ain't pretty, friends, and it sure doesn't feel good.  So now that He's my center, I don't mind being categorized as a "Jesus-freak" or a "fanatic."  In fact, I'll now take it as a compliment.  Because honestly, I like people too much to keep this news to myself.  I care about others too much to let them stay where they are.  I thank God multiple times a day for sending me a man who challenges me to do more for God everyday.  And I hope and pray that I can be that person for others.  I know that I have a long way to go and so much more to learn, but thank God that I'm not who I used to be.

As always, Brittany shared her account over at her blog (found here), and if you decide to share your story on your blog, please link it below.  I know it's hard to step out this way and it's out of the comfort zone for most people.  But know that your story can be a blessing to others if you do decide to share... and don't forget to check out next week's topic after the link-up.

So for next Thursday you have a little bit of homework.  A couple of weeks ago was the annual conference for the Association of Related Churches (ARC), which is the organization that we plant under.  Sadly, I did not get to go (and Brittany did- yes, I was totally jealous!), but watched most of the sessions live online, which was pretty cool.  One of the messages was probably the most favorite sermon I have ever heard in my life.  It fired me up and I was practically jumping up and down in my living room with nobody to process it with.  I encourage you to take 30 minutes out of your week this week and watch it, chew on it, and tell us how it speaks to you.  It's probably a message like nothing you've ever heard, so keep an open mind and really listen to what he has to say.  I hope it messes you up (in a good way) like it did for me.  You can find the message online here... all of them are great (and worth watching) but the one for next week is by Stovall Weems:

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!  And as always, thanks for letting us share our hearts.


  1. Hmm...I need to type my testimony up. I've been pretty private with it, and with my Christianity in general, honestly, and that isn't very Christian of me now is it. Like you, I was going through the motions at church for years before an "aha moment". I will try to post about it before next week. Thanks for nudging me. :)

  2. I'm glad I've nudged someone! :) It's really hard to put it out there, until you do! And then you realize, ok, that wasn't so bad. And then it gets easier. And then you turn into a nut like me. Haha...maybe not, but it does feel good to share sometimes! I look forward to reading yours!

  3. There are way worse nuts to be like, haha!