I suppose you all want to hear my story, and know where I’m coming from. After all, why should you listen to a single thing I say? Truth is, you probably shouldn’t. I’m not the end all be all of anything. I’m human. Take what I say back to the Word. Please. For the love of God. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, but there is the odd occasion where I put my foot in it. Big time. So please, use your brains and take what I say with a grain of salt.
Oh, back to my testimony. Testimony is a funny word isn’t it? It sounds so official. Like my story should be Earth shatteringly important, right? But what if it isn’t? What if I wasn’t a drug addict, or physically abused, or suicidal, and I don’t have this dramatic turnaround story? Does it still matter? At first, I didn’t think so. After all, those near-death kinds of stories have such a tremendous impact don’t they? Here’s the worst sinner in the word brought back to the light, and look at them now! How great is our God?!
So, what if you’re that “midlist” Christian? (In the world of publishing, a midlist author is someone who falls right in the middle of the success pool. They tend to get overlooked for marketing, because they’re not selling gangbusters, and they’re not at the bottom needing a boost of visibility. They run on autopilot, lost in the stack, bringing in just enough income to be offered another contract, but not enough to get ideal placement in Barnes and Nobel.) You’re plugging away doing your midlist thing, with no life-changing “ah-ha” moment. You volunteer, you go to church, you host a bible study. You’re normal. Is your story worth hearing?
You know what? I think it is. I think, while Christians at large are very inspired by those harrowing tales of Jesus picking up the low out of the gutter, you don’t have to be in the gutter for Jesus to put His hand on your shoulder. And I’d argue many Christians never make it to that dark place. At least, I hope they don’t. My best friend did, and her testimony is hard to hear. (Click here if you want to check it out. It’s amazing BTW.) I don’t want that for people, and I know she doesn’t either.
So for those of us who live a midlist life, what do we have to say? Maybe you grew up in the church, and never had that…well, for lack of a better term, come-to-Jesus moment. Because He was always there. You never rebelled, never turned away, and have always known Him. What could you possibly have to say to bring someone in? Who would want to hear your story?
Everyone. I do! How did this life make a difference for you? What friendships did you form that shaped your path? What struggles did you face that this upbringing helped you conquer? Be real. Did you have a low point where you ignored your inner circle of Jesus Freaks? These moments help people know it’s okay if it happened to them. Mistakes, slip ups, wrong turns, it’s life. And yours matters.
“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done.” (Pslam 105:1 NIV). What has He done in your life? People need to hear not only the big things, but the little things. People need to know He is there every day, that He cares about every aspect of your life, no matter how small. The path you’re on right this moment is a direct result of how tightly you hold onto Him.
God’s Electric Chair
That being said, you still want to hear my testimony? Get ready. It’s…normal. I was raised Catholic. I also grew up during the “born again Christian” craze. All of my friends in high school thought I needed to be saved. I was a teenager the first time I met Mr. Screwtape’s (aka Satan’s) favorite Christian. (If you haven’t read CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letters I suggest you do immediately. It changed my life.
Anyway, back to my story. It seems that I attract these people. And as I get older, I’m learning how to respond to them…better. Not perfectly but better. My first encounter shaped my entire life for the next decade and a half though, and still stings when I think about all those eyes on me, filled with not only condemnation, but pity.
Here’s what happened: A boy at school, who I happened to have a crush on invited me to go to youth group with him. I’d never been to something like that before, and I liked him so I agreed to go. There were about forty or so teens there, and as a newcomer I was asked to declare Jesus as my personal savior in front of a bunch of strangers. I bristled at this. I didn’t know those people. Why did they deserve to know where my heart was? When I refused, the youth pastor did more than bristle. He literally condemned me to hell in front of everyone. I’ll never forget what he said as he stood up, glaring at me. “You will sit in Jesus’ electric chair, and He will laugh while you burn.” I stood up, meeting his challenge (as I am pretty confrontational, and don’t care to be bullied) and yelled that I wanted no part of a Jesus who did that, and stormed out. My friend followed on my heels hanging his head. He apologized profusely on the ride home, and didn’t speak to me much after that. Whether he was embarrassed about what happened, or agreed I was going to hell, I’m not really sure of to this day.
I was so…angry by what that man (who probably was younger than I am today…groan) said about me. I wasn’t so much embarrassed about being condemned to hell in front of a bunch of strangers, as I was enraged. Who did that guy think he was? So convinced he was right about me when I knew he was wrong. It wasn’t whether or not I was going to hell. It was what he said about Jesus that made me angry. Jesus would never laugh when someone went to hell. After all, when His dear friend Lazarus died, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35 NKJV) Jesus cares for us. And when we go astray, he cries. CRIES. He also pleads with God while he’s on the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) He doesn’t want to see these people who are literally killing him condemned. So why in the world would he laugh at me if I went to hell? It was (and possibly still is) absolutely enraging.
At this stage of my life, I hadn’t read The Screwtape Letters, and I didn’t know about Satan’s favorite Christians. All I knew was that that guy was a whack job with a big audience and I wanted nothing to do with him.
At any rate, that moment changed my view of the “church” dramatically. And when similar incidents happened over and over and over again — most recently with a woman who decided the school I send my daughter to isn’t “Christian enough” (what does that even mean?), I pushed further and further away from the Christian establishment.
I never strayed far, continued to pray and help in the community as best I could. Which is why, when a genuine God loving person came into my life, I let her. I resisted her persistence to get me involved in a churchy community for over a year though. I wasn’t ready to let my guard down that far. But she wore me down, and I have to say, I’ve grown more in the years I’ve known her than I had in my entire life. She actually loves my questions (which can come out very aggressively and sound like challenges), and answers them thoughtfully, and calmly. She is exactly who I needed to bring me back. Now, I go to church regularly. And while I’m not as “plugged in” to church as I should be, the desire to get involved is there. And for me, that’s huge.
So that’s my story. It’s not big. It’s not Earth-shattering, but it still matters. I was hurt by the church, and yet, I’ve found my way back to it. And isn’t that the meat of any testimony? How you found your way home?