a formal written or spoken statement, especially one given in a court of law.Oxford English Dictionary
Several days post-Christmas seems like the perfect time to cast my testimony beyond the boundaries of church and into the internet. The quick and easy version of my story is that one day Todd invited me to study the Bible with him over lunch. I agreed, was too proud to ask which of the four books of John, and ended up reading the wrong one. However, I was intellectually hooked. How did I not remember these passages from church? How did I not realize these guidelines for living a fruitful life were accessible this whole time? Lunch readings led to group Bible study where I dug deeper with other christians. My wife and I joined a local church and attended an Alpha course together. After relocating to Florida we found Grace Anglican Church, attended a Rooted course, and I finally progressed to an emotional relationship with God. Simple and happy, right?
My actual journey was much longer and harder than it needed to be. Real growth takes time to reflect on challenging ideas and before internalizing. You have to chew on them. Struggle with them. Question and test them in the face of temptation.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.1 Corinthians 10:13
I spent the first 41 years of my life identifying as a believer and good person. I semi-regularly attended church and knew the stories of the Bible, but did not apply them in my life. I devalued my wife as I sought my identity through the opinions of others. I modeled poor emotional maturity to my kids and continued the cycle of generational trauma. I could (would?) not see the common thread that ran through my failings as a husband, father, and ultimately, as a christian. I saw each situation as unique and justified my actions. I was self-centered and emotionally unaware. However, God used my stubborn pace to strengthen me through challenges yet to come.
My own physical illness in 2012 prepared me for my father’s unsuccessful battle with cancer later that year, which in turn prepared me for my daughter’s successful fight beginning in 2015. My mental breakdown in 2019 prepared me to notice and intervene with my son when he began to struggle last month. My first professional “disappointment” in 2018 began the path of introspection that led to finding my identity in time for it to be challenged by my mother in 2019 and the Coast Guard this month. God placed people in my life with a better path along my entire journey, but very slowly did I begin to follow.
The above painting visualizes my first 41 yers. Notice that the door has no outside knob and not been opened in some time. The artist’s point is that Christ is always there, waiting for you to let Him in. My testimony is meandering through life with self-righteous confidence, hurting others and keeping God close but on the outside. It was only at my lowest point, in the face of losing everything important, that I realized He sought me the entire time and let Him in. Life is still challenging, but I find much more peace in the journey.
Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.C. S. Lewis