“So, what’s your story?”
When I was preparing to serve in international missions I attended a conference in Europe where one of the most impactful seminars was about the importance of sharing your testimony. Well, I have had ample opportunity to put that seminar into good practice here in Chile during the last 14 months. Previously, I struggled to share about my imperfections and the extent of God’s mercy in my life. Through the last year and some months God has led me by the hand, teaching me about His grace, love, forgiveness, and the way He can, and longs to, renew our lives – all of which has prompted me to share my journey with others more confidently.
After countless nights of sharing my story with complete strangers during street evangelism – and even after sharing with my family the worst parts of my past – I found myself completely frozen last week in front of a friend who asked the seemingly simple question: “so, what’s your story?”
Despite the growth I’d gone through, I found myself confronted with the same burden of shame that had previously prevented me from sharing with others what Christ had done in me.
Why am I struggling? Am I unable to express myself in Spanish? I flipped the language switch in my head and began to think in English, but the words still weren’t coming. All I could think was I’m not good enough. If I tell this person about my past then they will really know me.
Why am I having these thoughts now?! I'd had an amazing year of growth; full of self-love and self-confidence as a daughter of the King! Where is this coming from? I thought as I walked home by the light of the moon along the metro tracks that evening.
The next day I talked through it with my roommate and she spoke some Biblical truth into my life.
"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you." - James 4:7-8a
She encouraged me to pray protection over my mind and to be honest with my friend when I felt ready.
I took the weekend to think and pray. I didn’t know why these negative thoughts were invading my mind or why I felt so uncomfortable sharing about my past suddenly. Days later when my friend and I got together again I felt secure enough to pick up the conversation where I had so awkwardly left it evenings before. “Ok, so here it is. This is who I was and this is who I am now because of Jesus’ love, mercy and grace.”
There was a long silence afterwards as my friend processed everything I had shared and we left the conversation even more awkward than the last. That night I walked home feeling empty and alone again. The negative thoughts pounded through my head and began to bang against my heart. You’re not good enough. You haven’t changed. You’re weak!
I didn’t sleep that night. I searched for God’s truth about who I am as His daughter, but it just wasn’t sinking in. My thoughts and feelings jumbled and left me with bags under my eyes as the sun crept through the spaces between my curtains.
I went through that day with a heavy heart. In the evening I posted on my Facebook support group and asked for prayer to fight the negative thoughts that had sprung up. Alone in my apartment, I decided to journal to God. I prayed that He would intervene in my situation in a way that I could see His hand clearly. Mid-sentence my cell phone lit up and my hand released the pen to fall into the crease of the journal. It was my friend from the night before.
“Hello?” my voice shook. (Surely my number had been mistakenly dialled right?!)
“Hey Jess, how are you?”
“Uh, I’m doing alright.” I picked at my nails.
“I need to tell you something. Last night I didn’t handle that well. I love you and want to be there for you. I want to know your story, pray for you and be a support for you.”
I could hardly believe what I was hearing! How did my friend know to call me? How did they know just what to say at just the right moment? After talking for a bit, we hung up and I looked down at my open journal, at the entry that was only halfway finished. I scratched a horizontal line across the paper and started a new thought. I wrote praises to God for how He had answered my prayer. I had seen Him intervene. I had experienced His perfect love and acceptance through an imperfect person and an imperfect situation.
My past is not who I am today. Jesus died on the cross so that I could be set free from the chains of shame that bound me. Knowing my past is not knowing me now, but it is an important part in knowing why I am who I am today. Jesus paid a huge price for my past sins, my present mess-ups and future screw-ups, and for that I am eternally grateful.
“'Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts both. Now which of them will love him more?' Simon replied, 'I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.' 'You have judged correctly,' Jesus said ... 'Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.' Then Jesus said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven.'" - Luke 7:41-48
Trust in God, not in your own ability to fight sin. Trust in God that you are forgiven and accepted. Trust in God that He wants to use all of you, even the parts you would rather keep hidden.
"How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" - Hebrews 9:14