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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

This Is My Story, This Is My Song

I love sharing my story, or ‘testimony’, as we Christians like to call it. At least, I do now. I didn’t always. I used to think it was so boring it wasn’t worth sharing, or worse, that I didn’t even have one. I mean, I grew up in church. I knew what a ‘good’ testimony was – and mine was not it. I never killed anyone, did drugs, had cancer, limbs amputated or broke the law. I’ve followed God my whole life, and loved it. Truth is, I’ve loved God as long as I can remember.

And that was my problem.

See, I know how a testimony is supposed to work. I attended the ‘How to Write Your Testimony’ class. Literally. Teen Missions, who I went on my first two short term mission trips with, ran a class on it. One I failed miserably. And I mean, I was miserable.

Four sections, that’s what a real testimony is supposed to have: Your life before Jesus, your turnaround experience, how your life has changed since accepting Jesus and a Bible verse that’s been helpful along the way. Easy.

Or, it would have been, if I’d had any of those first three. I had a favourite Bible verse, but that was it. I remember so vividly sitting on a log after the testimony class staring at those four headings on my page while the rest of my team busily filled their pages. My page was empty. I had nothing. No before, no dramatic turnaround experience (not even a day I decided or 'prayed the prayer'), no after.

I was just about crying by the time one of my leaders came over to check on my progress. Everyone knows a Christian is supposed to have a testimony! Could I have been any more of a failure? But it didn’t seem to bother my leader. She just asked what my story was. So, all apologetically, I told her.

I’d been in love with Jesus my whole life. One of my earliest memories was of sitting on a swing in my backyard when I was about four years old making up songs to sing to him. I’d always thought of my relationship with God a bit like a child with their parents. When a child is born, they don’t understand how the relationship with their parents works, or how they came to be there or anything like that, that child just knows that those two people belong to them. The older the child grows, the more they understand just how that relationship works – the details, the sacrifices, the love.

I didn’t understand about atonement, salvation, lordship, the trinity or anything like that as a child, but I knew that Jesus loved me and I loved him, and that he was not only real but everything to me. As I grew, so did the knowledge of just what that relationship meant.

I’ll never forget the look on that leader’s face when I finished. Here I was apologising and she was amazed. “That’s the best testimony you could have! Do you know how many people would wish they had your story?” I’m sure I stared at her in utter confusion for a while but slowly her words sank in and I realised that not only did I have a testimony, but I could be proud to share it. It wasn’t a story of finding grace in the sewers or mercy in chains but of love and relationship. More than that, it was my story of God – and no one could take that from me.

I was thankful for that a few years later as, on another short term mission to a different country, I stood in front of a classroom full of teens sharing my story. They listened, they applauded politely – and then they asked “but when did you become a Christian?” A little taken back, I told them again that I didn’t have a turnaround experience, and they – very politely – told me I wasn’t a Christian. So I told them again about God in my life. And they asked again about the day I’d chosen to become a Christian. It was so strange, having to try to convince them that I truly was a Christian. Like they were telling me my story wasn’t good enough.

Turns out, being a Catholic nation, lots of people there call themselves Christians without actually knowing Jesus at all, so the teens’ confusion was understandable, but it did challenge me to once again own my story. Not to change it to suit someone else’s expectations or be ‘more impressive’ than it is (everyone loves a good complete turnaround experience story!) but to know that this is the story God has given me, and I should be proud to share it. I am proud to share it. 

God gives us all different stories. We are witnesses to his working in our lives, however that may be. Whether your story has four parts, one part, a gigantic turnaround experience, a steady plod, or simply a tale of a life in love with God, you have a story and no one but you can tell it. No one but you has your story. No matter how dull, predictable or thoroughly exciting your story may be, you can be proud of it because it’s yours. No one else in the entire world, not even those closest to you, has the story God has given you and no one else can share it but you.

So get out there and tell it because there is incredible power in the truth of God in our stories. And you have no idea how many lives God might change simply because you shared it.

PS. I get so ridiculously excited hearing people’s testimonies of what God is doing and has done in their lives and would love to hear yours! How did you come to know God in your life? Anyone want to share? :)

Monday, 7 September 2015

How Do You Keep Your Shower Clean?

Mess stresses me out. It really does. I can’t think properly when there is stuff everywhere. A bit of dust, I can handle. Dirt, fine – so long as I can’t see it. But mess? Totally can’t stand it. I can’t relax if there are things on the floor, dirty plates in the sink or washing which hasn’t been put away. Bleah! Needless to say, my house is always pretty tidy.

But look closer, and you’ll see the cracks. They're there in the thin (some places thick) layer of dust I keep telling myself will wait another few days (after all, it’ll just be back tomorrow anyway…) and the smudges on the mirrors and glass doors (I have young kids… enough said), the crumbs that escaped my cloth when I wiped down the bench and the pieces of Duplo waiting to be rescued from under my desk. Believe me, I’m far from the perfect housekeeper.

That said, I couldn’t help but laugh when I had friends over one day and one of them commented on my sparkling clean shower, asking how I managed to keep the glass so clean. The shower without a single speck of mould or soap grime or even fingerprints. I wish I could have told her it was my spectacular cleaning skills and taken all the credit. Instead I told her the truth – we don’t use it.

Now, before you think I’m totally gross and steer well clear of me thinking that neither I, nor any of my family, shower, we do. Promise. In the other one. The one with the soap scum perpetually on the glass no matter how many times I clean it. She was looking at the one in what’s basically my kids’ bathroom, the one that rarely gets used and probably is still as clean as the day it was built given my kids prefer baths.

It’s easy to keep things clean. Just don’t use them. Keep something in its box or wrapped up tight and it’ll be pristine forever. Get it out, use it, and after a while, the use will start to show. What gets used gets battered and broken, dirty and dingy. Never quite as perfect or as bright as it once was. Book pages yellow, paint starts to chip, bottles get emptied – because people use them.

It’s the same with humans.

When we open ourselves up to other people, we open ourselves up to getting hurt, bruised and sometimes broken. It might not happen. Perhaps they’ll be the people who will clean us and make us better, more beautiful.  But sometimes they won’t. Sometimes, we open up our lives to other people only to have their lack of understanding or compassion break us a little, or even shatter us. It’s a risk we take.

And yet, is it any better to not take that risk? To stay silent when we could speak, to keep our life separate from everyone around us, hiding the truth of who we are? We might remain perfect, unsullied by life, but we wouldn’t be doing what we were created to do.

Love God. Love people.

To be honest, loving people can get really messy. It can be painful, draining, confusing and sometimes even infuriating.


It’s what we were made for.

When we allow God to use us in the lives of those around us, we open ourselves up to being battered and maybe even broken. But we also open ourselves up to being used by God in incredible ways we could never even imagine.

Toys were made to be played with. Appliances made to be used. Clothes made to be worn. That shower in my kids’ bathroom might be sparkling and clean, but it’s not exactly fulfilling its purpose. It might as well not be there at all. Clean, but useless.

Risky as it might be, I refuse to be like that shower.

It's not what I was made for. And neither were you.