I grew up in the world of evangelical Christianity. As I was coming of age, I was part of a culture that really valued sharing your testimony – the story of how you came to know Jesus. But I was also a covenant child, meaning I was baptized as an infant and raised to love God, and I can honestly say I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know I belonged to Him. My mom tells me I prayed to receive Christ when I was four, but my memory is terrible and I don’t actually remember that!
Quite honestly, sharing my testimony was always daunting. There was no conscious “before Christ,” “encountering Christ,” “after Christ” transformation for me that fit the “formula” for sharing your testimony. My story has been a slow, fits-and-starts stream of growth. It certainly wasn’t flashy or sexy. Because of that, I doubted that it was valuable.
I recently came across a TED talk on Facebook that fascinated me. It was titled “The danger of a single story,” and it was given by a Nigerian novelist named Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. As an advocate for stories myself, I was intrigued by the title.
I loved the talk. You should definitely give it a listen. Like many good stories, I came away from it with my wheels turning, but in a slightly different direction than her main point.
The Christian’s testimony of how God drew him/her to Himself is a powerful and beautiful story – Glorious, no matter whether it is a radical conversion from a sordid life or a decision to follow Christ as a very young child.
But the testimony is not the Christian’s only story of God’s abundant and miraculous work. It’s only the start of the journey. The rest of the journey is what theologians call sanctification: God’s ongoing process of making us more like Jesus.
For the rest of our lives, God will be at work molding us into the individuals and communities that He created us to be: loving, holy, compassionate, fighting injustice and working for peace and reconciliation in our most intimate relationships as well as our broader communities. These are the things that reflect our beautiful, glorious, self-sacrificing God.
Much as I would like to think that these gorgeous character descriptions describe me, they really are not characteristics that come naturally to me.
I become a person who is a bearer of hope like Jesus when I let Him work His way in me. It has been a long and often painful process of surrender, of laying down my self-protecting pride because I find that He is trustworthy with my vulnerabilities. It takes years and years, but I have found God to be ever-faithful, ever-patient, and ever-tender in this process. HE is the One at work. The outcome of fruitful maturity that comes as a result of freedom in Christ in my life is His delight.
Because it takes so long, and because it involves every aspect of our lives, the stories of how God makes us into His saints are many. Christianity is not a wham, bam, you’re done kind of religion. It’s a growing relationship with a generous, powerful, intimate, mysterious-yet-revealed Being who is far greater than we are. Since it’s a growing relationship, our stories of His work in us are encouraging to others and wonderfully helpful for our own hearts to share.
Sharing my stories of God’s work in me helps me to process what He’s up to. Hearing other people’s stories of sanctification gives hope or joy or maturity or understanding – or a myriad of other wonderful possible things – to me when I take the time to listen. These are just a few of the reasons why I love to share and hear these kinds of stories whenever I can: on this blog, over coffee and meals, standing around chatting after church … everywhere!
So let’s share our stories of how we came to know and love God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Start at the beginning, but continue to tell the ongoing unfolding story until the very end.