I have been recalling, composing, and revising my testimony in preparation for possibly speaking at churches in the upcoming year. The process has been encouraging, exhausting, and terrifying all at the same time. On the one hand, looking at my life as a narrative has been a very enlightening experience. I have seen points from the past directly inform the present. I have witnessed motifs and decisions that seem to pervade my personhood. I have seen my life more fully as a story.
In many ways, its normal. And simple. In others, its somewhat unique or compelling (at least as far as I'm concerned). What's fascinating to me is that the supposed "big mountaintop moments" I assumed would shape me right after they happened have been forgotten in the overarching narrative over time. The real factors that have informed who I have become appear to be the day-to-day choices that became habits, or the consistent patterns that emerged in the background of living. I have found some stunning clarity in reviewing life this way, even as my findings are, at times, disconcerting.
Additionally, I am struck by my relationship to God in all of this. Whether I was "on fire" or dulled to lukewarmness or simply apathetic and cold, I see instances of provision, of divine help, of a writer at work behind the scenes--not only paying off set-ups from a decade or two previous but also preparing me for another encounter or event I could not foresee as the season of training for it took place.
The more I look back on my years of wandering, the more I see that God, either directly or indirectly, has delivered me from folly more than I care to admit. I see him motivating good choices, or allowing me to make the bad ones, then later taking the emotional and mental consequences of those poor decisions and gaining some glory from them. Some I still see as having no benefit or positive outcomes (yet), but given all that I have now seen, I am hopeful that God can still use them.
But perhaps more telling than any other facet of this exercise is this: God is patient. Very patient.
You see, I am a broken person. I do not mean this in the sense that "nobody's perfect, esp. not me" but in the sense that I have deep-rooted issues and shameful flaws. I really do. And everyone I know only sees them in bits and pieces, usually by accident. But God--God sees them all, all the time. He does not get to be protected from them. He knows the ill-thoughts that I never voice, the dark imaginings that I never confess, the harsh judgements I keep hidden, and the great hurts I will not share. And yet, in all of that, I believe that he loves me. He loves me with a love that I cannot fathom, a love that I do not deserve and could not reciprocate on this side of eternity.
The Bible is powerful. The stories of others are compelling. And perhaps this is my Westernized individualism speaking, but frankly, I don't know of anything that has shown me the love of God with as much potency as his love for me despite myself, especially when taking the fullness of my life into consideration. The fact that the Creator of the universe, who is so above everything, would dare to love a broken creature like me, is more telling than anything. What a friend we have in Jesus, whose reconciliatory act on the cross allows this relationship to occur. How amazing it is that he would come to this earth and make himself so available to those so undeserving. Persons like me. Perhaps like you.
What does your life look like as a story? Do you see God in its telling? Do you see his mercy, his patience, and his grace with you? Do you not see how much his love is poured out for you, and how badly he wants for you to see it, know it, and follow him? If you don't, look harder. You may just fall in love with him all over again. And that'll be a story with telling.
Thanks for reading,