Last week in service we had a presentation on being ready to share your story. The last time I shared my story at church, it ended with me playing a Peter Furler song. How quaint. Anyway, it got me thinking about writing up my testimony again… in a shorter way. I have 2 main entries in my other blog written many eons ago, that I considered my ultimate testimony… but the second entry ended with me leaving college, and was very long and never finished. THIS “story” developer is based on something that would make it more succinct you might say. It is from the CRU website. It is a number of questions that I will answer and later develop and memorize. I find other people’s stories very valuable, and I suppose I shouldn’t think less of mine. Here we go:
My Life Before Christ
What about my life before Christ will relate most to the non-Christians I know?
- I was selfish, lived strictly for my own pleasure, suffered through a parent’s divorce, found failure in my own efforts, struggled with depression, purposelessness, and fear.
What did my life revolve around? Where did I get my security, identity or happiness from?
- My life revolved around finding the next thing to help me escape my own failure; drugs, alcohol, books, even hiking. My security was not only in my isolation, but also found in finding faults in everyone else. My best friend and I would make fun of others mercilessly. Focusing on other’s failures helped me not see my own.
How did those things begin to let me down?
- Eventually I saw the escape as nothing more than that. I would always have to come back and face myself. There was no permanence in the escape. The searing mirror of my life reflected misery and hopelessness. I knew there was more, there had to be, but actually finding it was not something I was willing to put any effort in because of my own failures. And that was the crux, was it not? I believed there had to be effort put in to purpose, and my history told me to not even try.
How I Came to Christ
When was the first time I heard the gospel? What were my initial reactions?
- The first time I heard the gospel, I actually saw it in action. The girl I knew I was to marry, had an extended family in which I shared a meal with almost every Sunday afternoon. Seeing them share their ideas with each other about religion, politics and other subjects that were taboo in my own family, in a (mostly) peaceful manner showed something I had never seen before. Although I had no idea what they were talking about at times, witnessing a family that loved one another enough to speak about the things they may disagree on and still share meals every week. There was something different about them. I eventually realized that it was Christ in them that I saw, even in their faults. The gospel for me was never something I first heard, but witnessed. Even in the times that I began to hear, the puzzle of the word wasn’t fully revealed until marriage counseling and many other sermons in which I was initially offended because of my idea that purpose equals effort. The gospel was seen and not heard for me.
When and why did my perspective begin to change toward Christ?
- Knowing that my future wife’s family was the way they were because of Christ, made me think I was missing something about Him. Growing up Catholic, Christ was a mysterious figure that you accessed through ceremony and only heard about for a brief time in the gospel reading. It was impossible for us to fully know Him unless you forsook the world and became a priest. Hearing who Christ was at the church my wife’s uncle pastored, and hearing a brief snippet at the Catholic church, made me angry and confused that there was such a discrepancy in the idea of Christ. (Little did I know…) I knew that the Christian idea that there is no effort put forth in us toward a lifetime in heaven with God had to be wrong. My identity was tied up in my failure. I had excuses for not even trying. And now I was hearing that it wasn’t about my effort? It wasn’t about my failure? But, in a way, the life of failure that had come to define me, revealed to me that ALL my efforts would end up in failure. It was only in Christ that I could succeed. That was a long process for me and was a reason that there was no date and time for my understanding of Christ, in which, in Him, was all the effort I needed.
What were the final struggles that went through my mind just before I accepted Him? Why did I finally decide to accept Christ (or give Him complete control of my life)?
- My struggles were that this faith included no real effort on my part, at least when it comes to the ultimate idea that I get to spend eternity with the Creator of the universe. I knew that life was more than matter. Purpose was one of the highest ideals for me. My considerations of Veterinarian, or Psychologist, or Forest Ranger, all came with a capital letter of purpose. Failing at all that helped me see that purpose isn’t found in career. Purpose is found in giving up all that the world has to offer. I was fully rebellious to what the world offered, and in Christ I saw that ultimate rebellion against the world. It was the attractiveness that Christ went against all expectations people have of Him. Our natural tendency is to believe our work gets us somewhere, especially in the afterlife, but Christ is different. Everything else became made up fantasy, and Christ turned into the greatest rebellion I could join.
My Life After Coming to Christ
How is my life different now? List some specific changes in your character, attitude and perspective on life.
- Today I still struggle with my selfishness. I want everything to be about me. But I now understand and fight to give that glory to Christ. He has given me that purpose, and I always come back to that; I have a greater purpose through Christ. I know that in many things I still fail, but Christ has redeemed it all. I mean in that, that ultimately I will be with Him, no matter all my failures. I see people who’s lives seem far greater than mine; great vacations, beautiful homes, purposeful careers, luxurious vehicles, all the bells and whistles, and there is a pang inside me that wants that… but I know Him and His purposes for me so fully transcend those things, that they don’t matter. Reflecting on Him and all He has given me, helps me to live without regrets and not focus on my failures. I work on attitude that all my efforts are for Him. If they fail, it is God’s purpose to help me grow closer to Him, understanding my life more.
What motivates me now? What do I live for?
- I am not perfect, and even though I may say I live for Christ, I still fail. But, I come to Him after those failures and seek to know Him and thank Him for that opportunity. I live for Christ and the victory He has for me in how quickly I come back to Him; in my failures AND my successes as well.
Even though my life still isn’t perfect, how does knowing Christ help me deal with that fact?
- Knowing my life isn’t perfect helps keep me humble. If my life was perfect, I would start thinking less of Him. Failure is a door to Him.
I think that this exercise really helped! Keeping things in a more generic story will leave the opportunity to ask questions by the listener. I don’t have to be fully detailed. This is a good start. From the website, here are the next steps for this “story” of mine:
Put it Together
Let’s take a look at how to put your story together, section by section. There are five basic parts to your story: the opening, your life before Christ, how you came to Christ, your life after Christ, and the closing.
- The Opening. Identify a theme you can use to frame your story. What did your life revolve around (e.g. relationships, your reputation, money) that God used to help bring you to Him? Briefly illustrate how that influenced your life.
- Your Life Before Christ. Paint a picture of what your life was like before you came to Christ. Don’t dwell too much on, or brag about, past sin struggles. Share only the details that relate to your theme –– just enough to show your need for Christ.
- How You Came to Christ. Give the details about why and how you became a Christian. Communicate in such a way that the person you are talking with, and anyone who overhears you, can understand how they can become a Christian, too. Even if your listeners are not ready for that, God could use your story and explanation of the gospel to draw them to Himself in the future.
- Your Life After Coming to Christ. Share some of the changes that Christ has made in your life as they relate to your theme. Emphasize the changes in your character, attitude or perspective, not just mere changes in behavior. Be realistic. We still struggle as Christians. Life is far from perfect, but what’s different about your life now?
- The Closing. End with a statement that summarizes your story and connects everything back to your theme. If you want, close with a Bible verse that relates to your experience.
I will work on this on my next blog entry.