“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image
from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
~ 2 Corinthians 3:18
Riddle: Can you tell me the difference between the stories in the books in the photos throughout this post?
A friend and I over a cup of coffee were discussing The Three Minute Testimony. She laughed, telling me that I couldn’t explain anything in three minutes – which I concede is possibly true. I’m a sit-long-and-talk-much person. God made me that way. Much to the dismay of many, I am sure.
The Three Minute Testimony is encouraged in many areas of training within church outreach. Typically, it is in three steps: 1) Before Christ: describe your life before your encounter with Christ 2) Meeting Jesus Christ: Describe the moment you realized you needed to give your life to Christ 3) After: Describe how your life changed when Jesus came into it.
As former college writing instructor and sometimes professor, I love the organizational pattern. Life Before Christ. Meeting Christ. Life After Meeting Christ. Yet, this pattern stymied me from fulfilling what it asked me to do. That pattern doesn’t work for me. I met Christ in a closet when I was four. I gave my life to him when I was in second grade. I believe that the faith I had as a child covered me, protected me, guarded me – shepherded me away from the dangerous places, keep me fairly within the safety of His boundaries, though I wouldn’t understand the grace He offered me – the everything He offered me for over 30 more years. How can one do The Three Minute Testimony with a story like that?
Let me put it more simply: For the first 36 years of my life, God gradually revealed who He was to me. Then one season, the God who had made himself known to me, a four year old, finally revealed himself to be my beloved Father. Or maybe my father revealed to me that I was His beloved daughter. . . and all that being a beloved daughter entails. A gradual revealing doesn’t quite fit into The Three Minute Testimony format, nor does it have that WOW impact. I love hearing those WOW stories, but my story doesn’t fit that pattern.
Did you throw in with God when you were a child? Talk to Him in the darkness of bedtime when fears crept about the room of your mind? Have back yard conversations when there was no one to play with? Did you feel Him deep down in your soul with a joy that bubbled up?
I remember that season of faith – that child-like faith. I remember drawing near to Him – and Him being right there, meeting me where I was, literally and figuratively. I remember the conversations we had that started with my questions, my fears, my dreams – and I remember His answers. . . and trusting. . .
I remember journeying along with Him – and sometimes I’d wander as I grew. Yet, in my confusion of who I was, the value of my worth, which means my lack of confidence, even my ignorance of who I really was to Him, of the uncomfortableness of the daily, I’d wind closer and then wander off again. He always stayed close. Looking back, I see that. Maybe that’s why I love the story of the shepherd who pursues the wandering lambs.
One time though, I wouldn’t talk to Him. He’d disappointed me. Maybe I was in a sulk. I didn’t understand an unanswered prayer. I still followed along, trailing far behind. I wouldn’t talk to Him, have conversations with Him. One day, though, I finally understood why my prayer wasn’t answered. I picked up my pace, drawing closer, but not really knowing how to deepen our relationship. Something had changed.
As we grow into adulthood, we need to take that faith of a child and press in to learn fully who He is. Who was that benevolent, protective God who met me in my back yard, who comforted me when I battled fears in the dark nights? Yes – He was the creator of the world. I knew the bible stories – but it was time to come close and know Him better.
I remember one late wintery afternoon, waiting for my husband to come out of work. – we’d been married about a year and a half – we still only had one car. While I waited, I reached out to draw near to God, and I prayed. I prayed that God would show me how to love Him like I did when I was that second-grade little girl. That prayer ignited a new chapter of what would develop into a lifetime of faith stories. Maybe each chapter is its own 3-minute testimony with its own revelation of who God is – who He is to me and who I am to Him.
Draw near to me, He says, and I will draw near to you (James 4:8). He never fails, though I might.
It feels like the 3-minute testimony wants a Saul-to-Paul story. I don’t have that kind of story. I love those stories. I admit, Satan tempts me with those stories to think my testimony isn’t powerful enough to change a life. Do you ever feel that way?
In a church service one day, the minister asked the congregation to turn to the person next to them and tell them, “I have a testimony.” I turned to the gentleman sitting next to me and said, “I don’t have a very exciting testimony.” He kindly laughed and said, “I don’t have a very exciting one, either.” Something immediately pierced my heart. . . God censured me in that moment. I regretted my answer. I couldn’t explain why I regretted it – but it’s as though God had given me a precious gift (my salvation) – and because I didn’t see my story as valuable as the Saul-to-Paul stories, I made it sound like God have given me a cheaper salvation – and I was dissing the story He had written with me while He was standing just behind me and heard what I thought of His gift. I was ashamed, filled with regret.
I’ve been wrestling with this Three-Minute Testimony assignment. . . expectation, mulling the requirements, turning it over in my mind, chewing on it – you name it, I’ve been trying to figure out how to . . . .
In the early 2000s, when I taught college composition, I told my students that they needed three reasons for anything they believed, trying to get them to understand how to build an argument. One of my students came in one day, boasting of how he had persuaded a friend of his to stop tithing because his friend couldn’t give him three reasons why he should. While he was proud of his accomplishment, I stood there dismayed. Then I started thinking about what if he asked me why I believed in God? I spent weeks during drive time trying to find an answer brilliant enough to explain why I believed. I determined that there was no philosophical way to persuade someone about why I believed. . . but I could give him three stories about why. This particular student never asked me why I believed, but the experienced prepared me to answer when another student about six years later asked me why.
As I was thinking about The Three-Minute Testimony, God brought me back to the stories, pointing out the God-written quiver full He has given me.
No – I don’t have a Saul-to-Paul testimony. I have a more God drawing me closer as I draw close to Him story, a more gradual going from glory to glory since I was in second grade to age 60. The testimony of a girl made whole in a broken world isn’t a one-and-done chapter in a life-long story. They’re the Little-By-Little Stories. If my life were a book, it would be a book full of testimonies. Growing from Glory to Glory is a continual journey because our souls in this thin skin probably couldn’t survive a one-time-full-impartation of the full knowledge of God’s full Glory.
What am I going to do when someone asks for The Three Minute Testimony – directly or indirectly? I’ve decided that I’m going to let God in the situation guide me to the story that needs sharing, that needs speaking to encourage someone in a hard or confusing moment. Maybe I will pull out from my quiver of God-designed stories one of the following:
~ The testimony of the first time I realized that God was impressive
~ The Testimony of How Our Relationship Grew in Backyard Stories or Bedtime Talks When I had Questions or Fears
~ The Testimony of a Child of Divorce asking God to be My Matchmaker
~ All the Chapters of Infertility and Mothering that Birthed Greater and Greater Trust and Faith
~ The Giving of My Dreams to Him and what He did with Them?
~ How God delivered me from an Orphan Spirit and Exposed the True Identity within as Daughter of the King?
~ The Life-Saving Stories?
~ The Soul-Saving Stories?
~ The Story of how the God Who Made Himself Known to Me Became My Father who Made Himself Known to Me.
~ And Other Stories. . .
I hope that when you are asked to tell your neighbor, “I have a testimony,” that you lean over with delight savoring that you have a God-Designed quiver full of testimonies – probably some of your very favorite stories about how God has grown you from Glory to Glory – and that if you shared just one of them, you would be able to wrap it up in three minutes during a street ministry, in a Hot-Three-Minutes-On-The Spot, an indirect sharing in the workplace that plants or waters a seed, or maybe over a cup of coffee! I hope you realize that your quiver full of testimonies is worth sharing. After all, they were written by your beloved Father just for you.
Answer to the Riddle: The stories in these books are finished. You and God are still writing your stories!
Time: 9 Minutes and 40 Seconds. I guess it’s true – I can’t explain something in less than three minutes (But I do believe I could tell one story in three minutes!)
(for the sit-long-talk-much testimony, click here: The Testimony of a Girl Made Whole in a Broken World)
Remember Me Monday: #92 & Link-up
“I’ll make a list of God’s gracious dealings,
all the things God has done that need praising,
All the generous bounties of God,
his great goodness to the family of Israel—
. love extravagant.”
~ Isaiah 63:7, The Message
In the Old Testament, God repeatedly, quietly and loudly, tells his children, “You have forgotten me!” (Jeremiah 3:32, Ezekiel 22:12, to name a few). It’s a heart cry from a father to a child who has forgotten all the love, all the saving, helping, little and big blessings – and it leaves me stunned when I realize our Father, the creator of the universe, who knows things I cannot begin to fathom, who authors storylines that leave me amazed, delights in all of us so much, He cries out, “Remember Me.”
While every day is a Remember God Day, I am inviting you to join me on Monday mornings to come by and remember what God has done for you, for your family. Maybe God sent a cardinal darting out in front of you, as if to tell you, “I’m here,” or broke a child’s fever after you laid it all down at His feet in a 2 a.m. bedside vigil. Maybe He stood with you in the wait of a prayer sent out, or brought someone you loved to Christ. Maybe He healed your broken heart, gave your courage, or you gave Him your dreams as a love offering only to have Him give them back in an unimaginable way. Maybe God helped you survive to bedtime after a crazy Monday, or forgive yourself for missing it with your kiddos –– Whatever it is, let’s Remember Him. . . in a “Remember Me Monday” love letter.
“My mouth will tell of your righteousness,
Of your salvation all the day long,
Though I know not its measure.
I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign Lord”
~ Psalm 71:15-16.
Let us delight in Him by telling the stories of what He’s done! If you wrote a blog post remembering what He’s done for you, join the linky. If you didn’t but still want to praise Him for what He’s done – write it in the comment section. Then visit a comment before or after yours! One of the beautiful things about the blogging community is the relationships it builds!
Rules? Write long or short, a list or a story, include photos or not. Just Remember Him and what He has done, and let the gratitude of your heart guide you. Let’s make Monday so Rejoice, that the goodness of God spills into the rest of the week!