My story starts with and ends with God. I grew up going to church and had an encounter with Jesus by myself, on my bed when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. That was the first time I can remember feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit. I was lying on my bed and had a wave of peace come over me and the feeling of some one telling me that I am going to be with Jesus.
From there I moved on to middle school which was an uneasy time for me; figuring out growing up from a child to a teenager. As far as dating went, I had crushes on different boys but never wanted to actually date because “why would I want to break up in two weeks?” That’s how I saw my friends relationships ending and I didn’t care to have the same fate. My mindset in middle school was abnormal and I was often the one convincing my friends that they didn’t need boyfriends. So much so that I even broke up with 3 boys when my friends were too scared to do it.
The first time I broke up with a friend’s boyfriend was over the summer, just before going into 7th grade. My friend wanted to break up with her boyfriend but was fearful so we hatched a plan that I would call him from her house, pretend to be her, and break up with him. I dialed the phone number and the phone started to ring. And ring and ring. And no one answered. I hung up the phone and we decided to try later. The phone was still in my hand when it began to ring so I answered and handed it over to my friend because it was her mom asking to speak with her. When I watched her begin talking to her mom, her eyes grew 10x the size and she hissed “its him!!!!” as she threw the phone back at me. In my surprise, I had misinterpreted this boys pre-pubescent voice for her mom’s and had to quickly recover the situation. I put the receiver to my ear and quickly said “um hi I don’t want to date you anymore. Okay bye” and hung up the phone. While I don’t think breaking up with boys for my friends was a the best way to show I cared about them, my heart was in the right place and I later learned better ways to communicate to them.
In high school, my dating streak stayed the same. I didn’t date because I still thought “why would I date anybody when I wasn’t ready to be fully committed long-term?” Not that I was thinking about marriage, but I knew that you either stay together forever or break up. Those are the only scenarios. And I didn’t want to stay together OR break up with anyone at that time so I side-stepped it altogether. Ninth grade stands out to me because it was my first year of transition of middle school to high school. There was an immediate change in friendships and school dynamics. Some friends wanted to party and get high and I was never interested in that at all. I lost some friends and gained some new ones. It was a year where, like 6th grade, I felt like I immediately how to grow up to be a little older than I was. The later years of high school I dealt with a few years of depression but I would probably classify more as self-pity. I believed a lot of lies that attacked the value God placed on me. Those were also the same years that I had profound experiences with Jesus that have impacted my faith into my adult years. I also made some of my strongest friendships during that time that still continue 10+ years later.
Looking back at my life I have certain traits that stand out to me stronger than others. Those traits are purity, obedience/rule-following, and loyalty. They are demonstrated throughout my life in the times I didn’t want boyfriends, school grades, and the friendships I chose.
My Husband’s Story
My husband David and I begin our stories in similar places with our families but have contrasting experiences with the way we decided to give God our all.
David grew up with a christian upbringing and attended a christian school from elementary through high school. He believed in God and had acknowledged Him early on in his life. David always demonstrated a wisdom and maturity beyond his years. He often had older responsibilities given to him by those who did not know his true age. A mustache and sideburns at 12 years old didn’t help either. One of those times happened when he was helping his grandpa with a landscaping project. The two of them went to a tree farm to dig trees out of the ground to replant on their project. David was able to lift the trees up and into the truck by himself. The owner of the tree farm happened to drive by while they were loading and stopped to offer him a job. The owner stated that usually his guys have to load them using two guys per tree. David had to turn down the job offer because he was only 12 years old.
Around 9th and 10th grade he grew tired of what people expected of him as not only a christian but as a ‘pastor’s kid.’ In his words, he stopped taking God seriously. He didn’t just want to do the right thing because that’s what he should do, he wanted to have fun. He started hanging out with a different crowd of friends. He began smoking cigarettes, drinking on weekends, and skipping school. That escalated into smoking weed and heavier drinking on the weekends that included camping trips with friends with a lot of alcohol.
His habit of excessive drinking continued past high school. One night, at the age of 20, he was at a bar with some friends. He was high before they got to the bar and he had a lot to drink once they got there. He was talking with his friends and a wave of shame suddenly came over him and he asked himself ‘what are you doing? Why are you acting like this?’ He got up and went to the bathroom to discern the shame. When he came back his friends wanted to leave and the next thing he knew he was waking up the next morning on his friend’s couch. When he woke up his friend told him the story of what had happened the night before. Dave had wandered off by himself outside the bar when his friends left. One of them came back to look for him and found him passed out beside a dumpster at temps that were below freezing. He didn’t know how long he had been there but he definitely would have frozen to death if he stayed all night. He was carried to his friend’s truck and spent the night on his couch until the next morning. That night will be forever significant to him as he realized how close he was to death if his friend hadn’t found him. He hadn’t felt conviction for any of his actions in a long time, but that night things changed for him.
From there he knew something needed to change and shortly after he began committing his life to Christ. He went to a christian discipleship training school with Youth With A Mission. The training school was 5 months long and he felt uneasy about it until about 2 months in. He was torn between giving up his old ways on one hand and being sure that he YWAM was not where he wanted to be on the other. Growing up in a christian family, he knew what he needed to do to commit his life to God. It made him uneasy because he knew that meant his entire life would have to change. He committed his life back to the Lord one day, one week at a time.
In short, the themes of David’s story are wisdom, rebellion, and redemption.
This post is for 2 types of people. Those who think their testimony is boring and those who think their story holds too much shame.
To those with the ‘boring’ testimony:
The absence of rebellion does not mean the absence of Jesus. I used to think that I didn’t have much to share because I didn’t have a stage of rebellion that seemed to make testimonies a little flashier. That is until a friend of mine, who didn’t grow up as a christian and heard very little about Jesus until his mid 20’s said “your story shows me that it is possible to live a life for God. Its possible not to turn from him.”
In a world where we are used to the drama of movies and TV, it is easy to think that the absence of a dramatic turn of events makes our life insignificant. However, isn’t it VERY significant to follow the Lord all the days of your life? When there are millions of ways to turn from God and have our own fun, don’t you think it is nothing short of a miracle that we are able to stay with God our whole lives, even if our friends don’t?
To those with the ‘shameful’ testimony:
Remember the reason we first came to Christ. It was because he offered us more grace and love than we thought we deserved. Our sins were immediately forgiven. The Lord said “it is finished” of our past. He is not digging it back up again for us to carry shame and guilt. That is a tactic of Satan. God says:
“I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like a morning mist. Return to me for I have redeemed you.” Isaiah 44:22
He doesn’t care about what you’ve done. It is over. He has swept it away like a cloud. It was a mere mist between the two of you and now he has fully and wholly redeemed you. Our past doesn’t determine our future, God does.
Our testimonies give us power over the enemy. Our testimonies will play a key part in defeating Satan. In the book of Revelation it says: “And they triumphed over him [Satan] by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Since we have power in our testimony, of course the evil one would try to disarm it in any way he can. But don’t be fooled, our story no longer has weakness, but strength because of Christ.
Every one of our lives is essentially the story of God. Our story is God’s story. He shows up in so many ways, in so many seasons. Whether it is a lifetime of leaning into God to defeat the enemy in our lives or a lapse in our life without God – His desire is that we walk in His perfect love, knowing there is not one thing that can be held against us. God makes our stories significant, redeemed, and beautiful.