The word “testimony” can be defined in two ways. The first is “something a person says, especially in a court of law while promising to tell the truth”. The second is “proof or evidence that something exists or is true.” I like that second one a whole lot. Here’s why:
When I think about my testimony (which is really just a fancy way of saying “my life”), I find that I’m no longer intimidated by what should or shouldn’t be there, according to the general guidelines of What Makes a Good Testimony According to the Most Interesting Christians. Everyone’s relationship with God is distinct and unique, powerful in both acts of courage and humble service, and I’ve walked in (sometimes shaky, always interested) faith my entire life. My parent’s divorce and the birth of my little sister are probably the most significant parts of my life up until I got married. And I cannot define my own testimony without them.
My parents are incredible people. My dad is funny, handsome, patient, and conservative. My mother is beautiful, strong, generous, and liberal. What they shared in good looks and humor they lacked in beliefs. Just before I was born, my dad became a Christian. My mother, who survived a very troubled childhood, longed for love and longed for God, but looked for these things in many of the wrong places. She struggled to accept my dad’s love and my dad struggled to accept her flaws. To him, the world was black and white and there was a right and wrong in every situation. To my mom, the world was covered by a thick haze of gray. It was a relationship of what I call grace and truth. You can’t have one without the other. And, unfortunately, my parents were unable to marry these two beautiful things together and, when I was in eighth grade, they divorced.
My little sister, Kati, was born almost two years earlier and what a surprise she was! I never expected to be anything but the youngest child and, suddenly, the responsibility of helping to care for a newborn baby became a very real challenge for me and my siblings. Both of my parents worked full-time and my mother was also in college. There were times when we wouldn’t see her until just before bedtime and I resented my role in raising Kati. She felt more like my child, rather than my sibling, and I longed for the day when she would no longer come bursting into my room uninvited, stealing my things, and, often, breaking them.
At the time, my faith was the strongest it had ever been. I was troubled by the mistakes my parents had made because, up until their divorce (and even when I saw them fight), I considered them to be just a little less than perfect. But only slightly. Their divorce opened my eyes to the sometimes horrifying truth that our parents are actually people with as much need for Christ as anyone else.
I wrote in my journal almost every day. It was my solace. In my own words, God answered the questions that rose out of my hurting heart. I poured myself out on notebook paper and He unscrambled my sentences until they made sense. In the New Testament, Jesus tells His disciples that it’s better for Him to leave because He will send someone to guide them (John 16:7). The Holy Spirit. Our perfect Helper. He took what I could not understand and spoke peace to my heart with every giggling conversation I had with my growing sister. With every cry in my mother’s arms. With every laugh and song in my dad’s truck. And, eventually, grace and truth came together.
There is no tidy wrap-up to this story because it’s still happening. My little sister, my beautiful best friend, is going to be a senior in high school this fall. My sweet father has been remarried for almost ten years and my mama is just as beautiful and feisty as ever. But the hard edges of what happened then have softened and now when I tell this story I feel only nostalgia. And with an increasingly joyous heart I realize how grateful I am for a God who makes big beauty from our ashes.