Have you ever felt like you don’t really have a story? That your “testimony” is not really all that great? Maybe you’ve been a Christian your whole life and God hasn’t done anything radical, in your opinion.
Or maybe you’re on the other side and God changed your life in a huge way when you were saved, whether young or old. And you know that He gave you a story to tell, but you’re not all that interested in sharing it.
Or maybe you’re just somewhere in between, still figuring out your story. Wherever you fall, I think it is easy to think things of other people in these categories that aren’t true.
Amy and I grew up with very different lives, stories, and perceptions of God. When God brought us together, He intertwined those stories in a way only He could, helping us to learn so much from each other and about ourselves. Maybe you know a little or a lot of our stories. Here is an abridged version of them both:
I didn’t grow up in the church, and if I’m honest I thought that was counted against me for a long time once I did become a follower of Jesus. I grew up with two amazing parents who loved me deeply and a little brother who always annoyed me, but I couldn’t get enough of. I never really thought too much about church or God or anything along those lines, I was just doing me. But as I started getting older and making choices for myself, I had the thought that God hated me.
I wasn’t an awful kid, or any more rebellious than your typical teenager, but I did have a secret, one that I was even afraid to tell my parents about initially. In 8th grade I found out one of the girls I went to school with liked girls. I had never known anyone like that before and for some reason found it interesting. I had “dated” boys on and off since 5th grade so I wasn’t opposed to them, but was intrigued by the fact that this girl liked other girls.
After intentionally seeking out time to be around her I decided that I too liked girls and in fact liked her. It took me a while to tell her or anyone else, but I finally did. I told my friends and the way I remember it was that they didn’t really accept it and then that summer my parents decided to move so I changed schools to start high school. To me that was a way to get out of having to go to school with no friends and a bunch of people knowing my secret.
I eventually told my parents and they were so great about it. They loved me no matter what and it showed even more so through this crazy time in my life. After wrestling with who I was throughout high school and going back and forth between dating girls and guys I got into a pretty serious relationship with a girl when I was 15. We dated for over 6 years and then I moved on to the next and then a few other girls after that and that was my whole life. There wasn’t questioning anymore, no internal struggle, I was out and, for the most part, I was proud.
Then one day out of no where I got invited to church. I was thinking, “heck no God hates me and everything about me and the people in the church would know it as soon as I walked in the door”. (That’s a little dramatic sounding but truly how I felt!) But after being told there was a dance show being put on I figured I would see. So I went. And I went again, and I went again. It wasn’t at all like I expected; no one had any idea about the way I was living my life, but rather were welcoming and open and loving.
It would be awesome to say my life was changed then, but it wasn’t. I went right back to who I thought I was and living the same ways, but also going to church as well. But there was one Sunday that was different. Something was happening in me that I couldn’t explain and before I knew it I was in front of the church wanting to get baptized so that the whole world would know that I was a follower of Christ. I knew in that moment He didn’t hate me, not even close. He loved me so much, more than I could imagine. So I dedicated my life to Him!
After the excitement wore off I felt like I was right back where I started, still choosing to do the same things I’d always done, living the same way I’d always lived, being the same pre-Jesus Amy. I knew something had to change, but I was scared. I was afraid to tell people way back when I was in school that I liked girls and now I found myself afraid to tell people that that wasn’t true at all anymore. It’s crazy how the enemy gets us like that, but he wasn’t going to have that victory in my life. So I chose to follow God’s leading and move across the country to be surrounded by other believers as I finished up my degree program at a Christian university. It’s still hard to share my story, but I know that it’s my story for a reason. God gave it to me to bring glory to Him, to shine light into the darkness that I once lived in, and to remind people they are loved no matter where they’ve been.
Isn’t that such an amazing story? When I first met Amy, the end of this transformation was happening in her life. I thought she was the coolest person, I wanted to be mentored by her and be her friend because to me, she had a testimony! She had an amazing testimony and I had nothing. I admired her for having come to Jesus as an adult, not that she did it on purpose or was somehow better because of it, but I thought she was!
I grew up in church. I have a huge family with amazing God-fearing parents, went to church every Sunday since I was born, it feels like. I accepted Christ when I was 4, so not exactly the coolest salvation story. I told myself that I just didn’t have a story, that God has always been in my life. I was so wrong. I think part of the reason I told myself and others that I didn’t have a story or testimony was because I was hiding something huge. I had been living a secret life of addiction to pornography and self-pleasure, but there was no way anyone was ever going to know that, ever! So I stuck with my story: I was raised Christian, practically born Christian, still am Christian, the end. I think the other reason I told myself that was because I hadn’t really experienced God’s transforming power at that time. I was still stuck in my worldly ways, keeping it a secret, and God hadn’t done anything crazy. At least, I didn’t think so.
When I finally came clean to a close friend, and then to Amy, this HUGE weight was lifted off my shoulders. I was scared to death to tell anyone, but when that shame was ripped off with their loving reactions, the enemy was defeated. (Well, he was already defeated, I just had to remind him!). But God began a work in me that day; a work of realizing His immense love for me in spite of myself. A work of letting Him change me from the inside out and heal me! But it wasn’t my addiction, my admittance, or my story that made Him great. It wasn’t that work in me that made my story amazing, it was the work He had already done on the cross! I had always thought God had never done anything radical for me, therefore I don’t have a story. But He had done something radical, He had given His life for me so that I could be free from myself and this world. Man, it took my a long time to realize that! Today I have a story, one that I don’t particularly like. Yes, mine has something in it that maybe yours doesn’t, but the story isn’t about me, it’s about Christ’s unending love and mighty power.
We both got to see God’s power in very different ways, and it has opened our eyes to the fact that no two stories are the same. He died for you, that’s your story. The parts of your flesh that you dislike, the things you are striving to change, the voids within you that are ever empty–don’t ever say that you don’t have a story when Christ is your story. He saved you, and maybe you never got to see the extent of what He saved you from, but know that His power is at work within you every day and we all have His story to tell.