When asked to share my testimony, I always find myself pausing and asking, “Which part?”
Because to tell my entire story would take a book. Lately, I’ve noticed that because my story is so–shall we say, multi-faceted–I’ve inched away from most recent opportunities to share it. Even here, in this special place of Creating A Great Day, when all of us contributors were asked to consider sharing our testimonies, while I thought it was a great idea for everyone else, I didn’t really want to share mine.
Which part would I share? I mean, after all, I certainly couldn’t fit the whole thing into one neat and tidy blog post.
Thankfully, the Holy Spirit gave me a good slap in the head and reminded me that the hesitancy I was feeling wasn’t from HIm. It was from the Enemy who really, really doesn’t want for me to share any part of my story with you.
And, if you know me at all, you know I don’t like it when the Enemy gets a little victory. So, sign myself up to share my testimony I did. (Take that, Satan!)
But, I was still left with the practical question–which part?? How am I going to fit my whole testimony into one blog post?
Again, the Holy Spirit slapped my head. “You don’t need to share the WHOLE thing. Tell them about Houseboat. Tell them about when you surrendered.”
So that’s where we’re going to go, dear readers. To that point in my story.
But, to get there, you are still going to need a little background…
I was born to God-fearing parents, who talk the talk and walk the walk. As a young six year old, I asked my mom to explain the Easter story that I’d heard in Sunday school that morning, because I didn’t understand it. And right there on the steps of our church, I asked Jesus to forgive me of all my sins and to be my Lord and Savior.
As I grew up, the Lord worked through my parents, extended family members, family friends, and our church to expose me to His body across the world. As an eight year old, I heard God call me to overseas missions. Being a public school kid gave me the wonderful opportunity at a very young age to make the decision as to whether or not I would publicly stand for Jesus. It also taught me respect for people who follow religions other than Christianity. Most (not all) of my friends at school didn’t believe exactly what I did, and their families didn’t look or act like mine.
As a matter of fact, at school, I was the only “Christian” I knew. Everyone else who wasn’t Jewish or HIndu or Muslim or Catholic was Baptist or Methodist or Presbyterian or some other denomination of Christianity. I was raised in a non-denominational church, so I was (and still am) literally just a Christ-follower. Pretty much the only other plain ol’ Christian friends I had were the ones I went to church with.
This didn’t bother me, it just made me aware that I was not in the majority. Even though I grew up in the Bible belt, where there’s a church on every corner, I knew as a youngster that not everyone believed the exact same thing that my family and I did. And I loved my friends no differently for it.
But, I did have two very separate friend groups: my school friends and my church friends. We lived in the suburbs of Atlanta, a good twenty minutes from our church, and most of the kids who went to my church lived close to church. Only one went to school with me.
I’m so grateful my parents faithfully drove me to youth group and small groups and sent me on our church retreats every summer so I could cultivate those friendships. To this day, the friends I regularly talk on the phone with (and all the mamas with toddlers know you are only talking on the phone with a very small group of girlfriends) are girls from my youth group.
The summer before my sophomore year of high school, I was headed on a charter bus to our summer youth group retreat, called Houseboat. Behind me sat this cute guy in a baseball cap. He and I started talking on the bus and didn’t stop talking the whole week.
Thank goodness I had enough good friends and our youth group was wise enough to build in plenty of non-co-ed time that I was able to focus on the reason we were on a retreat to begin with: to grow in our walk with Christ.
My sweet friends wouldn’t even let me sit next to the guy during our evening worship services so I wouldn’t be distracted. And, man, am I glad I did. Because it was during one of those services when the Holy Spirit spoke through the speaker’s message and changed my life.
My Christian walk up until then was good. I certainly loved God and sought to serve and worship and become more like Him. And I was soundly “saved.” Even though I was six years old when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I 100% knew the severity and consequences of my sins and believed that Jesus was the only option for forgiveness. I knew He was the only way I could have a relationship with God here on earth and for eternity in Heaven. I’d also, at that young age, understood repentance–to turn from your sins. Of course, like all humans, I couldn’t not sin, but the desire to please God and not sin was there.
I had stood for Christ when it wasn’t pleasant. By the time I finished middle school, I had very few friends at school because very few chose to hold to the morals I held as a Christ-follower. However, by the time I found myself on this Houseboat trip, I had the opportunity to attend our church’s private school where many of my friends from youth group also attended. There, I was learning more about Jesus and the Bible and Christianity. On the outside, what could possibly be missing in my walk with Christ aside from just knowing Him better?
Well, I liked (and still do) control. And, I was pretty smart. I mean, not to brag, but I got mostly all A’s in school in upper level classes. As a neighborhood babysitter, I was respected and was even a lead Sunday school teacher at our church for a summer. I never got in trouble. I was also gifted with an assortment of talents–acting and modeling were two I was exploring and doing well in. For a fifteen year old, I seemed to be doing just fine controlling the things I had control over.
But there, sitting on top of one of those houseboats, underneath a sea of stars, I realized there was a big part of following Jesus that I hadn’t done…surrender. Following Jesus means letting Him be in control, not me. Following Jesus meant giving Him the pen to my story. I didn’t know what that would look like. But, I knew I needed to do it.
So I did.
And everything changed.
And this where the story gets multi-faceted. This is where I wonder, which part do I tell?
Do I tell about breaking my leg? What about that mission trip I took to Kenya? Do I tell about living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? Guatemala–how do I not tell them about Guatemala? Do I tell them about nursing school? Working as a nurse? Hurting my back? Choosing to leave nursing? Starting my own business? Moving 9+ hours away from home to the last state in the continental U.S. that I wanted to live in (modern day Jonah situation, literally)? My mom’s best friend? The last year of our life?
Not here. Not today.
But, I will tell you about that guy. The one my friends wouldn’t let me sit next to, so I wouldn’t be distracted.
That guy who liked me as much as I liked him.
That guy who had already surrendered his life to Jesus.
We got home from that retreat, and God took us each on our own journeys for several years, journeys that drew us closer to Him in ways that we never could have grown if we’d been closer to each other than “just friends.”
Two weeks ago that guy and I celebrated six years of marriage.
And we both look back on that week on those houseboats and praise God that He opened my heart to surrender my life to Him. As my husband says, “Without God in control of our relationship from the beginning, I’m confident we would have messed it up.”
Our walk with the Lord, both as singles and as a married couple, has been filled with a wide gamut of experiences, emotions, trials, and joyous occasions. We shudder at what life would look like if neither of us had given Christ control of our life.
It hasn’t been easy. We’ve made mistakes. Daily we’re reminded that we’re not perfect. (Especially since we’re the parents of a toddler!)
But nothing else can replace this peace we have. A peace and a hope and an assurance that even though we aren’t perfect, God is. And He is always faithful.
We know, out of personal experience, that it is better for Him to hold the pen that’s writing our story than it is for us to.
We know that sometimes life gets hard. Really hard. But we have a peace that surpasses understanding and the strength of the Lord Jesus inside of us which keeps us pressing towards the goal of glorifying Him in all that we do.
Accepting Jesus as my Savior was a no-brainer. There’s no other way to have a relationship with God than through Jesus. There’s no other way to have eternal life. No other way to receive forgiveness.
Jesus asked God if there was a way other than the cross to redeem the world. Jesus had free will. He knew what was coming. He could have fled and saved Himself. But He surrendered to the will of God. He let God keep the pen.
And look what came out of that decision to surrender.
Have you surrendered your life to Christ? Given Him the pen of your life? What differences have you noticed since making that decision? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section.