I was a baby believer, seated in a circle of women, my hands clenched tight in my lap, as I listened to their tales of renewal, restoration, and salvation out of the pits of despair. Their testimonies spoke of transformation the likes of which I had never experienced—the former washed away, the new rushing in, and life never being the same again.
I counted across the bodies as the circle closed in and my turn drew near.
There was a brief moment of temptation to dramatize my conversion. Could I insert a dark alley, a scandalous choice, some incredible rescue from a life set far apart from Christ?
I knew enough to know that lying wasn’t the best lead in for my salvation story.
Life didn’t feel that much different to me after than it did before. But, just because I was “good” before I knew Christ, didn’t mean I was better off than any woman in that circle.
Over the years I’ve come to realize that I was worse off.
While God redeemed them out of former sins, my “goodness” continues to haunt me to this very day. The people-pleaser, perfection seeking, prone to worry, fearful to fail variety of sin is not quite as easy to shake.
We each have a story of how we found God (or how He found us). As I’ve reminisced over my spiritual birthday, I’ve come to realize that my real story, the one that speaks of the power of Christ in my life, isn’t born out of my beginnings.
My true testimony isn’t about how I came to Christ, but instead why I’ve stayed.
That’s been the real work of faith.
Giving Him my life first was easy compared to the day in and day out battle of surrender. The God who swept me off my feet nearly twenty years ago is the same One who has kept me standing, but He sure looks different to me.
Then, God seemed austere and aloof. I knew I needed to come to Him to make things right. While in my mind, my “rights” seemed to vastly outnumber my “wrongs”, it just made sense to me that if Christ was willing to give His life for me, I ought to give mine back—I owed Him that.
I spent those first few years trying to pay back a debt that I won’t ever repay.
And then my heart caught up with my head. God became MY God.
He moved from a book of rules, right vs. wrong, and black vs. white to love, relationship, and genuine intimacy.
Honestly, those two gods still battle in my mind. And I think it’s that small version of god that keeps so many people at bay. The ones who fail to see my God who loves relentlessly, forgives lavishly, and desires earnestly to draw near to us.
They see law instead of grace.
They see manipulation where there is friendship.
They feel distance while He is whisper close.
That’s why our stories, the real stories bathed in honesty and a visible heart, are so important. Not necessarily the volumes on who God was to us then (though no one will steal that from us), but the stories about who God is to us now.
Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it—not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives … it’s written with Spirit on spirit, His life on our lives!
2 Corinthians 3:3,6 MSG
Who He is when you hurt. Who He is when you wonder.
Who He is over piles of laundry, with kids fighting in the back seat, at the job you don’t like, in the doctor’s office, standing over a casket, staring down the feared unknown.
Who is He when life feels hard? Who is He when faith feels harder?
Those are the stories we have to tell …
About how He reaches into the everyday and meets us exactly where we need Him—in our weakness, in our frailty, in our never good enough goodness. About how He conquers rules and law—how He reduced Himself down to our level on the cross and keeps Himself there every single day.
How He understands that we don’t understand and that we are simply flesh yearning for Spirit but constantly missing its mark.
Because after twenty some years of walking with God, that’s the story I need to hear – and the one I’ve committed to tell. That I haven’t arrived and I shouldn’t expect too this side of heaven.
That the days will still be hard, faith will always be a fight, and the gods will continue to battle inside me because God is still fighting for me until we can finally be home together one day.
The years have proven that my wrongs will always outnumber my rights and that the Only Way to undo them is to give my life to Him every single day.
The real story is not about what He did, but what He continues to do … and why I still believe Him for it. Why I always will.