Growing up, that word did not comfort or inspire me. It struck fear in my heart because to give your “testimony” was to stand up in front of others and talk! It hasn’t lost its power over me, even at this stage of my life. I simply do not like being up in front of people. I am far more comfortable in the back of the room, or even better, in the kitchen or the nursery! (Of course, if you give me a computer keyboard, I will testify all day long!)
I think that’s the wonderful thing about all the stories God has woven into our lives. Some of them we speak. Some of them we write. And some of them are never shared but are only kept as a sacred record between our heart and the heart of God. But we all have a story!
My personal story of faith started before I was born. My parents were Christians, and I was going to church while I was still in my mother’s womb. Of course, this had an impact on me. I don’t remember a day when I doubted the existence of God. I never questioned the stories that I heard in Sunday School, or that were read to me regularly from the “blue Bible storybooks” that I still have on my shelf and plan to share with my own grandchildren.
Peter walked on water? Without a doubt.
Jonah lived three days in the belly of a great fish? Of course, he did.
Lazarus walked out of the grave? No question.
So when it came to the heart of the gospel, I had no trouble believing that God would send His Son, Jesus to earth, born of a virgin (although I didn’t quite know what that meant at the time), lived a perfect, sinless life, and died on a cross in my place, after which He rose from the dead and went back to heaven, where He waits for the world’s timeline to end and we can be together. I believed all of this from the time I heard it, but I was seven years old before I recognized that I had to act on what I believed and realized that I was personally separated from God. I gave my life to Christ during VBS, a time which I remember very clearly.
Growing up in the South, the church was a natural part of our life. We were “Independent, Pre-Millenial, Fundamental Baptists.” We weren’t Pentecostal, but there was quite a lot of “shouting” in my church, and a few times when someone would grab the American flag and circle the sanctuary in patriotic fervor. There were lots of covered dish dinners (Never my favorite; I don’t understand why we pack up our food and take it somewhere when there are plenty of restaurants around!), and we went to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night (most times), and as a teenager was expected to show up early for “youth group.” As I write this, I kind of understand why the world looks at Christians as if we’re a little crazy.
It was a great childhood. I grew up singing hymns and listening to visiting quartets and feeling slightly guilty for my Ronnie Milsap and Kenny Rogers eight-track tapes. I had to wear dresses (ugh). Boys and girls weren’t allowed to be in the swimming pool at the same time, movies were taboo, and as my mama still tells me, a dancing foot and a praying knee doesn’t grow on the same leg! And if you happened to go to any other church denomination, there were serious questions about your commitment to Christ. Southern Baptist? Stay away from them, especially if they dared to use the Living Bible or NIV!
In those days, altar calls were the norm, and they could be lengthy and drawn out. I can remember feeling perhaps I wasn’t even a believer, because I couldn’t think of anything else to confess, but the pianist kept on playing Just As I Am relentlessly. Looking back, I see the value of waiting on God’s Spirit to move in someone’s heart, but at that age, I just wanted to go home before Wonderful World of Disney came on television. I wasn’t very patient.
As I write this, I’m laughing, but thankful for all of it, because at its core, there was real worship and a real commitment to living your life for Jesus, and that was sown into my heart where it still bears fruit today. My personal walk with Jesus really began in earnest when I left for college, and of course, that’s where the struggles against living by the Spirit or living by the flesh really came to light. I’m indebted to the heritage I had that kept me from making too many mistakes or suffering too many scars. God gave me just enough of myself to see how dependent I was, and how desperately I needed Him.
I’ve often felt, as I’m sure many of you have also, that I don’t have a “powerful” testimony. I didn’t lead a life of sinful choices. I was a “good girl” for the most part. (In all honesty, I was always too scared to disobey, and peer pressure never really impacted me.) But the fact is, the same grace and mercy that rescues the vilest sinner, such as the thief on the cross with no time left to do anything to please Jesus, is the same grace and mercy that rescued me.
It was all Jesus.
It was all grace.
It was all His love for an insecure, shy, slightly odd little girl.
And I’m so grateful for it all.
How old were you when you came to know Jesus? Leave a comment with your age and a short testimony. I would love to hear your story.