This post was supposed to be well written. Intellectual. Smart. It was supposed to start off with the meaning of the word “testimony.” (The meaning is “a public recounting of a religious conversion or experience.”) I was supposed to write about how I met God in all of the mess that is my life. I was supposed to tell you why I called my blog “lament.” I was supposed to say that testimonies are why I believe things, which is more interesting than the “what I believe.” I wanted to tell you of the million ways God showed up, making it impossible for me to doubt Him. I wanted you to think that I am worthy of writing on this blog platform with Big Words and Theological Concepts.
But the truth is, I don’t know anything at all. I don’t even know how to say my story.
I don’t think there is a nice easy way to say any of it either. Believe me, I’ve tried.
I wanted to tell my story and tie it up in a nice box with a ribbon on top. No loose ends or sad endings, no lingering questions. But my story isn’t satisfying. It’s not linear or easy. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense.
See, I found God in the back seat of a 1997 Ford Aerostar. I was 8 years old. My brother and my mom were talking about the end of the world and I thought I saw demons in the trees. I prayed with my mom when we got home, through heavy sobs and tears, and I remember when I opened my eyes the fear was gone. I remember that day changed my life.
By all means, that should have been the end of it. Testimonies usually end when the sinner meets God. God makes all things right and there is no more hurting. Right? But that’s not what happened.
That fear plagued my life for 18 years. That fear almost made me leave the church. Sunday mornings gave me panic attacks. It made me unable to sleep. And when I was 16, it almost made me kill myself. If you have never been in my shoes, there are not words to explain the world of hurt that anxiety caused me. There aren’t words to express how angry I was that there were days that Christians only twisted the knife even further. The path that fear led me down influenced how I approached God. Fear told me that God was angry and vindictive. When I finally started to heal I realized that I couldn’t believe in that anymore; fear made me come to see that I needed to filter everything I learned through Jesus Christ and the simple fact that God is love. If it doesn’t fit that mold, it has to go.
But even those 18 years of hell on earth isn’t my testimony.
My testimony could be every night I spent in the ER screaming in pain. Maybe my testimony is a rare blood disorder diagnosis that turned into a lupus diagnosis which turned into hyperthyroidism which turned into thyroid cancer. Because I found God when I had meningitis and shingles and the nurse wouldn’t give me metal forks because I had been screaming that I wanted it all to end. It was the years of physical suffering that made me realize I couldn’t carry myself and there needed to be a God or else I was a goner.
But even that isn’t my full testimony. It could be the years of my childhood that my father spent putting me down and making fun of me. Some people call it a sense of humor but after he left I started calling it what it was: emotional and verbal abuse. Because in church they kept telling me that God was my father so I couldn’t stop thinking about how disappointed God was in me. I couldn’t stop thinking about how frustrated He must be with me. I couldn’t stop hating myself because of it. My testimony could be all the times I refused to eat because I didn’t want to get fat because I thought I wasn’t good enough. It could be the nights of squeezing my stomach with my nails in fits of anger because no one ever told me that God cared about my physical body.
Or maybe my testimony is the fact that I’ve always been the rock of my friend group. I found God every night I got a call from someone saying they were going to commit suicide. Every person I held when they were drunk or high. I found God in every mascara stained sweater from being the shoulder to cry on. These people made me realize that bible verses didn’t magically cure their depression. My testimony is the collection of text messages.
“Faith, I was raped.”
“Goodbye Faith, I’m going to kill myself.”
“Faith, I’m having a panic attack.”
“Faith, I’m cutting.”
“Faith, I haven’t eaten in three days.”
They made me realize that God must be far greater than I ever imagined. I found God each time my heart caved in for them because maybe this was what God meant when He said “bear each other’s burdens.” I found that “the church” wasn’t a building. It was all these hurting individuals who weren’t meant to mask their pain on Sunday mornings.
My testimony could be the past two years of my life that have been filled with nonstop questions and rarely any answers. It is how I stopped calling myself a Christian. My testimony is the dust collecting on my pink bible. It was the day I cried so hard I threw up but I remember that “How He Loves” was playing through my headphones as I clutched the toilet seat and I realized God loved me in that moment just as much as He did when I was mentally healthy. My testimony is the fact that sometimes I can’t pray the way I feel I’m supposed to. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a string of cuss words, sometimes it’s merely saying the name of God, and sometimes it’s just telling God that I don’t know what to do anymore. My testimony is crying after three shots of vodka because I stopped thinking God was listening and He wasn’t alleviating my suffering. It’s the months I started self-medicating my doubts with anything I could get my hands on; sometimes that was alcohol sometimes it was the constant need for attention and sometimes it was letting my depression take over. My testimony is feeling like I have let everyone down and feeling like a failure because I’m not a hero, because I’m not the person my siblings need me to be, I’m not as strong as my older brother or my best friends. My testimony could be my trust issues that have stopped me from believing in anyone or anything.
But my testimony was the day I realized that I’m doing the best that I can.
“My love for God is strong, but could that be the same as faith?”*
Maybe it isn’t, but I will let my love carry me into a place where I can have faith. Because I realize that no matter how much my faith has broken my heart and no matter how many doubts I have, it is the only thing I know for certain. Because sometimes I walk into church and I can’t even hear the sermon because of the loud thoughts in my head, but when I sit among people who love me, I see God in them. In their smiles and in their hugs. I see God in the lake by my school when its beauty takes my breath away. I see Him in the movies I watch and the music I listen to. I see God in the little provisions and small coincidences. It’s growing up not having money and some days, barely getting by and having to live paycheck to paycheck but trusting that somehow God would come in clutch.
Some days I cannot feel God. Some days I have no idea what the hell I’m even doing anymore. Sometimes I question if it’s worth it. Sometimes my daily bread goes stale.
And the thing is, I cannot convince anyone that God is real. I don’t understand it myself.
But recently someone told me that God told her something about me. She said “I don’t know what God is doing with you, but He told me He’s doing something new.”
My testimony is my laments to a God I doubt. It is the thorn in my flesh that God refuses to take out. It is the hot tears I cry. It is the little miracles that show up in my life; those times I catch a glimpse of Him in the passing wind.
I say all this because if you want to know why I believe the things that I do, this is the reason. Everything I post are the conclusions of this never ending story. This is how I met God. This is how I am searching for God. I don’t have many answers but I’ve been through too much to think this was all for nothing.
You know, it’s a lot like that quote from The Last Jedi. “Hope is like the sun. If you only believe in it when you can see it, you’ll never make it through the night.” I think God is like that too.
So right now, with my heavy heart and questions and pain, I wonder if this is the start of something new.
(*Silence, Shukaku Endo.)