“What’s your story?”
This question smacked me in the face recently when I was given the opportunity to present a testimony at a camp. After a lot of thought on how I should deliver my journey of faith to those in middle school, I decided to tell the truth.
I decided to go with who I am and not who I wanted to be.
I decided to leave out fictional accounts of my drug smuggling, binge drinking, and gun wheeling days. Instead, I chose to tell them about a God who chooses those with “boring” stories and not just those with dramatic twists and turns.
In Evangelical circles, there is great emphasis placed on our personal testimonies of faith.
Often times in church settings, we will hear tales of recovering drug addicts, sexaholics, abusers of power, and gang members coming to Jesus. But for someone like me, raised in a stable home and never venturing too far from the beaten trail, I felt like my story was more bland.
I was embarrassed about my story.
With so many other tales of how the Spirit brought someone into the family of God, I often felt like I was plain. I felt as if I was a boring, old flavor that needed to be apologized for in the world of interesting stories.
After a lot of anguish in preparing for this camp, I came to the conclusion that my testimony is not there to brag about my experience. It’s meant to show how Jesus acts in our lives, whether it is a dramatic conversion like Paul on the “Road to Damascus” or a gradual transition into the Kingdom of God.
Our stories are unique and they’re important in God’s eyes because that’s the road he takes to reach us, and the road we take to meet him.
I told those kids how I decided to wear the faith of my family for years.
I was a Christian because my parents were, plain and simple.
But when it came to a summer camp in high school, that’s when God had different plans. He grabbed hold of me and called me out of the crowd to join his family, to join the countless others who responded to his call from across the ages.
I remember sitting in the back of a dark chapel, trying to impress my friends and a girl I liked. It was there in that dark chapel that I heard how God wanted to restore lives, no matter how broken or frail.
No matter if you were a “good kid” or a “nightmare child.”
There in the dim light and amid tears, I chose to follow Christ—and that is exactly what I needed to share with those middle school kids.
Don’t get me wrong, it has not all been downhill from there. I have failed, gotten back up, failed again, and pleaded that Christ would strengthen me. It really is a common occurrence in my life.
But in my weaknesses, God has made me strong.
Sure, my history might not be ready for the silver screen, but I know it’s ready for God’s story. For I will tell you that it is God who redeemed me from the pit, it was he who picked me up out of the darkness.
I realized that I didn’t need to make up some tale of drug abuse, or expand on how I stole a Hot Wheel car from Sunday School (although, that probably counts as double sin points).
What those kids needed to hear from me was an invitation to follow Jesus, regardless if their past life was routine or explosive.
I began to see the importance of my story is that it is a small chapter in the great drama that began in the Garden. I am important in God’s eyes, and the first step I took in that dark chapel years ago was a small step into the grand adventure of God making the world right.
God loves me, no matter what my story looks like.