I remember as a teen thinking that my testimony was boring. For some reason it seemed dull in comparison with the really messy guy who had snot coming out of his nose as he spilled all the gory details of his debauched life before Christ. You could not help but tear up, as his lip quivered with emotion. Comparing my stuff to that- well that’s not even a contest.
The real bummer is that I have heard students say this very thing, that their testimony seems somehow “less-than”. How is it that if you have not done all sorts of emotionally, physically, and spiritually messed up stuff, that you can’t have an engaging testimony?
This really bugged me when my own daughter said the other night, “Yeah, I just always feel like my testimony is boring and no one really relates, so I just stopped sharing it.” Boy! That sucks. And it made me think about how we approach testimonies. Perhaps we adults are partly at fault with the comparison game. Perhaps we have been framing it wrong for ourselves and for students.
The truth is that testimony is the bedrock of the Christian faith. It is the way the “Good news of Jesus Christ” reached so many so quickly in the early church. It is by this route that I encountered the Living God in a new and profound way that changed my life forever. Testimony is and should be a consistent element of the Church. It is a powerful tool to spread the life altering and transformative power of the gospel through accessible story.
Something I have been challenged on and thought a lot about lately is the communal existence of the early church. This rose up out of the communal existence of the Jewish people, their culture. Everything revolved around community and how one impacts all. The story of the gospel is firmly planted in an Eastern understanding of community. There is high value placed on legacy, those that came before, those that will come after. You and I are part of an overarching narrative that tells the story of us, not just you.
This is, I think, key in teaching and practicing the art of testimony. Your testimony is not yours, it belongs to the whole. So, sweet child of mine, you are the product of Great Grandparents who lived achingly empty and dysfunctional lives until they met Jesus. It changed everything! It changed the direction of our families narrative! They were marked by the sins that had been done against them and the choices that they made, BUT the Holy Spirit that dwelt in them began to stir up new life. We are the result of our Grandparents choice to invite God into our story. With a little less baggage to carry, they lived for Jesus the best they knew how. They lived in a freedom that their parents did not know as they chose daily to follow Christ. And here we are, your Mom and Dad, my lovely girl. We are the result of our parents’ investment. We have chosen a radical and consuming life lived by the Spirit. We have made mistakes- yes, but we have also made many wonderful choices. We walk more freely than our parents did, by the grace of God. And then there is you, lovely, kind, generous, friend of God.
There are no boring testimonies, especially when we enmesh them in the bigger picture. The work of God in each generation is evident in our history. Let’s teach our students that their testimony is part of the big story, the beautiful narrative of the gospel. We were never meant to live this life alone and none of our stories stand alone.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us…Hebrews 12:1