We all have a story. It’s our story. I don’t have a great story. I wasn’t a drug addict or prostitute or money launderer. I didn’t overcome great obstacles to find God. I was like most people, most average people. Living life during the week while doing God mostly on Sundays.
Here’s my story. While you read my story, think of yours. What is your story?
What was I like before?
Self-centered. Money-focused. Self-focused. Lying and cheating “a little bit” was okay because I was only doing it “a little bit.” Ignoring ways I could help others was okay because I needed to take care of myself. I couldn’t be burdened with others’ needs when I had my own to worry about. I wasn’t a bad person, but I wasn’t totally a good person, either. I was focused only on myself and my own needs.
What happened to me? What was my road to Damascus?
Kids. It was kids.
In 2004, my husband Howard and I started attending church regularly, because: kids. Nothing like children to force you to recognize that God is vital to life. We knew we had to raise our kids in the church. There was no other option in our minds. Our kids had to know God so we started going to church on Sundays. Bonus: we got to know God better ourselves.
Howard and I would drop off the kids at the Sunday school rooms, and head to the auditorium where we would take notes during the sermon. Sitting in the front row, writing down the pastor’s teachings furiously in our notebooks. We would soak in every word, every message, and we learned more about God and the Bible in those first few years than we ever had growing up; me, Methodist, and Howard, Lutheran.
The messages started to sink in. My prayer life exploded out of that. Suddenly, I was talking to God all the time. In the car, in bed, in the bathroom, in the kitchen, everywhere. God and I were having an ongoing conversation.
Soon, I realized that God knew everything. I couldn’t hide my “bad parts” from him. He pointed out that every time I lied (a little) or cheated (a little) or ignored others’ needs (a little), I was chipping away at myself and my own integrity. I was hurting myself.
It wasn’t my gaining something, it was my losing something. The more I thought I was ahead in the game of life, the less I had. I kept coming up empty. In fact, I was really falling behind. The more I tricked and fudged to get ahead, the further behind I found myself.
What difference did Jesus make in my life?
So, I learned to stop doing those bad things. Stop fudging and white-lying and cheating a bit to get ahead. I took the honest road, and it paid off. I experienced a calmness like I’d never felt before. No more little games or cheatings because I was living honestly and authentically and it felt good, really good. Like, deep in my soul good.
Soon, I started to feel the prompts of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would steer me to do things. Sometimes I listened, other times I didn’t. And, I always regretted when I didn’t, so I learned quickly to respond. I didn’t like that feeling of regret.
I enjoyed the feeling of satisfaction and joy when I would follow through with a Holy Spirit prompt. Quite often, it was to help others. Maybe it was always to help others, I don’t know, but I know that when I listened and followed, I felt better than anything. Better than my best day, better than winning an award, better than the kudos of others, better than any drug or drink could make you feel. It was an unearthly elation. And, I loved it.
God even spoke to me in those early years of walking the path. It was the second time I’ve heard a distinct voice that came from God.
I was standing at the kitchen sink, the kids were spreading crumbs in the cluttered living room while watching a blaring Disney TV show, and I was knee deep in laundry and dirty dishes. Hubby was working ungodly hours, lots of nights and weekends, and sales dinners out in real restaurants. I was eating the stale ends of corn dogs and couldn’t remember the last time I took a shower. Tears rolled down my face and I thought, “This can’t possibly be my life, can it?”
And, I got a response. The voice was deep and clear, “This is not why I made you.”
It was one of those moments that was shockingly normal. I knew it was God. And, I was a little taken aback but elated by his words. This wasn’t my purpose. This was my job, my joy, my reality, but it wasn’t my purpose.
I’m still discovering my purpose, but it isn’t washing dishes or packing lunches, or any other domestic chore, or even taking care of my family. Those are noble tasks, sure, but they’re not my purpose.
I’m living my best life yet, and it gets better every day because I get closer and closer to God. When I stopped grasping for all I could get and started doing God’s will, my life became amazingly full and complex. I wish I’d trusted God earlier to follow him completely so I could have this joy and peace for more days of my life.
Well, that’s my testimony. What’s yours? Need help? Keep reading…
Three Prompts for Telling Your Testimony
by Nicky Gumbel
1. Tell them what you were like before. Identify with your audience. Find points of contact with your audience.
2. Tell them what happened to you. Tell them in very concrete terms. It is the details that make it real and powerful.
3. Describe the difference Jesus has made in your life. There is great power in the story of a changed life. Telling your story is a way you can play a part in transforming the world around you.