For a long time I was afraid of the word “testimony.” People would bring it up in churches, in lecture phase, and even here on outreach. They’d talk about how your testimony can set people free! How your testimony and the gospel are the two most powerful things you can share with somebody. The problem is, I don’t feel like I have a testimony, or at least not a complete testimony.
Everyone else is all like, “My life was in shambles. I was doing 30 different kind of drugs and cheated on my husband and was in and out of jail and considering murdering my neighbor and his dog but then I met the Lord and I was set free and now I’m happy and peaceful and love my life.” Or maybe, “I was on my deathbed, wasting away from a disease the doctors couldn’t even figure out let alone cure, but a Christian came along and prayed for me and I was instantly healed and now I have a Crossfit ministry!” Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but still. Then people look at me like, “What about you???” And I’m like, “…Umm I was born in a Christian home with really loving and wonderful parents, a great community, lots of amazing examples, and I just grew up loving God and…still do?” And Christians are all encouraging. “Wow that’s amazing! That’s the kind of testimony I want for my children!” And inside I’m going, “Try trying to help someone who has actual problems with a testimony like that. ‘Hi! I’m Allison! I don’t relate to you at all!'”
But the truth, and I didn’t realize this until maybe last week, is that it was a little deeper than that. The truth is I didn’t feel like I have a complete testimony. I still struggle with A LOT of things. I don’t really understand who God is. I don’t understand what He wants from me. I still get so frustrated and discouraged sometimes that I start to wonder if He’s even real. If He’s real and He loves me, then why am I so confused all the time? What the heck am I doing in Puna, Hawaii when I could have been off on an adventure in Paraguay? Why do I still struggle so much with myself? If it’s true that a touch from God’s love will change your life forever, then why don’t I feel changed?? I’m still very much in the middle of all this, and I didn’t think my testimony was valid or helpful unless it had a tidy happy ending already.
Last week, we were assigned a 4-hour “quiet time.” We went out into the world with the purpose of spending time with God and asking Him about our testimony. I was so excited to spend time with God, but I was actually kind of nervous about the testimony bit. I knew we were going to come back and debrief and Zeke would look at me and go, “Allison! Give me your testimony!” and I was pretty sure I would still have nothing to say. But I’m think God didn’t want me distracted for the whole four hours, so He started talking right away about testimonies.
I told Him that I don’t feel like mine is useful. I felt like I needed Him to fix everything so I could have a nice package to present people. I have actually been putting a lot of pressure on God and on myself to kind of wrap up my struggles just so they were wrapped up and I could say God fixed me. Or something. But God was pretty quick with His response. “You aren’t perfect. You’re still walking through things. So what? Use that.” Use that? What on earth…? But He reminded me that the ONE THING I’m absolutely certain of in the midst of everything, even on my worst days and in my deepest questions and struggles is that He loves me. Ohhhh how He loves me. He tells me all the time. He speaks to me personally, He tells others to tell me, He pranks me, He spends time with me. HE LOVES ME. He won’t let me forget it. I’m probably the most frustrating person in the world to love. I doubt Him, I question Him, I yell at Him, I get so angry with Him. And He just loves me. That, in and of itself, is a testimony. I have a Savior who understands every single struggle I’m going through, and I have a God who loves me (and enjoys me!) through all of it. I can share that on my best day or on my worst day. I can talk to somebody about my Loving God all day.
I want to encourage you that, even if you don’t think you have a testimony, you do. Your life, your learning, your struggles, they can all help somebody. God is working through things with all of us. Some of us have “completed” testimonies – things that God has helped us overcome already (and I do have those too, btw) – but some of us are still working through things. You don’t have to be a finished product to be an effective evangelist. Well, you don’t have to be a finished product to be ANYTHING, because the truth is we’ll never be finished. If we’re doing life right, we’ll keep learning and growing and struggling and breaking through and getting better until the day we die. But God is so present and so loving through all of it.