The word "testimony" usually brings to mind one of two things in my mind: a witness in court/deposition or a Christian sharing the story of how she came to accept Christ as her savior. The second meaning of testimony hasn't been that familiar to me until the last few years, and I still feel a bit weird using the word. Perhaps my discomfort arises from the word feeling like religious jargon, meaning that others may have no idea what "testimony" is.
Last week AM's post and the subsequent comments led me to think about my faith and my experience. Billy wrote that he wished "we'd just keep our beliefs to ourselves." But I am glad that many people haven't complied with his wish and have shared their faith with me. I see how different my life is because of my relationship with Christ, and I can't imagine not sharing that with others. It's too exciting. It's brought too much joy into my life to keep it to myself. I thank God that my friend Lori didn't keep her faith to herself and kept on inviting me to church despite my initial resistance.
Anyway, my pastor has asked church members to share their testimonies during Lent, so I shared mine this last Sunday. Since I was supposed to limit my story to 3-4 minutes, I had to write it out. I've pasted a rough draft of what I shared on Sunday below.
By the time I began college I was agnostic; I didn’t really know what I believed, and I didn’t care to expend any energy to figure it out. I was also afraid of what Christianity might cost me and was pretty certain I wasn’t interested in giving up a number of sins, so I figured “why bother?”
The year after college a coworker kept inviting me to a Tuesday night church service….and she finally twisted my arm hard enough to get to me to go. And I was pretty amazed; it was a service with about 3,000 people and a rock band, and unlike anything I’d ever seen in all of my years of attending church. I’d never seen people who were just excited about Christ. And I’d never heard a sermon that felt remotely relevant to my life, so it was a first for me to feel engaged by the message and leave a church with something to think about. The experience was intriguing enough for me to go back a few times, and when I moved to Atlanta I ended up attending church there—getting hooked on a sermon series that kept me coming back nine Sundays in a row
But I still didn’t believe Christ was my savior. I wanted to believe, but I just didn’t. And finally a friend told me that at some point I’d have to quick over-thinking things and take a leap of faith--God wasn’t going to necessarily meet my analytical standard of proof in the exact way I demanded, resolving every issue I had with Christianity or Christians for that matter. No email or flashing lights were going to appear; I was going to have to step out in hope and give my trust to God. And so seven years ago I took the leap of faith, accepting Christ as my savior. And for the first four years, it was a rather slow go in submitting my life to Christ—but as I’ve gotten to know God better, it’s become easier and easier to trust Him and His plans over my own.
And it’s funny--in the way I was measuring cost, my faith in Christ has ended up costing me more than I ever could have imagined that it could. As a non-believer, I didn’t understand that by realizing and accepting what Christ had done for me I would actually WANT to live differently. I didn’t understand that it wasn’t about my actions but about His. I didn’t understand that people didn’t give up certain behaviors or sin to earn salvation—but rather because of the gift of salvation and their relationship with Christ. And through my experience of accepting Christ as my savior and pursuing a relationship with God, every part of my life has changed.
I sometimes find myself saying something or even feeling or believing a certain way, and I can’t believe I’m having the thought. It’s as if I’ve been rewired without fully realizing it. And as I grow in my faith, I let go of more and more of myself and my sinfulness and see glimpses of who God created me to be. And while this ongoing process of renewal and transformation has been painful and exhausting at times, it is a journey marked with more joy, sweetness, peace, and freedom than I’ve ever could have anticipated.
p.s. I'm grateful that I saw Carter seven days in a row.