I love it — I mean, like, seriously, love it — when I’m in a church service, and it speaks to where I am at right that very moment.
The fact that happened Saturday was cool. The way it happened Saturday was even cooler.
The previous Sunday, I’d been to a church I’d never been to before. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past year, it’s that the more random the church I’m in on any given day, the more closely I should pay attention. The less likely it is that I should be there, the more likely it is there’s a reason I’m there. And I was somewhere pretty darned random last Sunday.
I came out of the service utterly defeated. The sermon was about yielding to God, and promised to reveal both why we should and what it looks like to do so. I very much got the part about the fact that I should; that was a fact I was not unaware of going into it. The part about how to yield to Him? Yeah, OK, that part didn’t come through as clearly. I’m afraid I left with no simple shortcuts to the problem, and was even more overwhelmed and despairing about my inability to do so.
My final notes from that service were a prayer along those lines, about my weakness, about my despair, about no longer even having the will to try to be who I should, so convinced was I that failure was inevitable.
Not a great place to be.
Church Saturday night picked up exactly where I left off Sunday, because a fellow member of the group had the honesty to say that this was what he was struggling with, and that he was to the point of despair. All too often, we’re only alone in our struggles because none of us has the courage to admit we’re in the same place.
We watched part of a video from The Skit Guys, which dealt with how we want God to change us in the ways we think best, rather than giving Him the freedom to chisel where He will. There were a couple of lines I liked, in an exchange between this guy and God:
“I can’t be good.” “I’ve made you good; be good.”
“God, I’ve let You down so many times.” “No, you were never holding Me up.”
There were two things that really struck me during the conversation, things that came to me that I made notes about that I shared with the group, though they were almost certainly mainly for me.
“Do you think you’re ever going to be there?” It’s very easy to get frustrated by all the ways we fall short of who God wants us to be. All the things we should do that we don’t; all the things we don’t do that we should. It’s easy to despair of the fact that even after years of working to be closer to that, it can feel like we’re further from it than we ever were.
But the truth is, we’re never going to get there. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try, it means that we have to remember that the focus is on the journey, not the destination. If we allow ourselves to focus on the fact that we’re not “there” — that we haven’t reached the destination — then that focus will lead to an endless despair, since that fact will never change.
So, yeah, I’m not perfect. And, yeah, I screw up. And, yeah, I’m struggling with stuff. And that’s going to be true until the day I die. The trick, then, is to let Him make me better for it.
The other thing I wrote down was in response to a couple of other discussion points. One was a video, in which a believer was challenged about how he knew God was real/present/whatever. The other was the issue of living a life that is set apart. If a believer and an unbeliever both watch a horribly crude movie together, the question was raised, how exactly are they different?
And the difference is, for the believer —
This is your testimony.
This — whatever “this” is — is your testimony.
For the believer, whatever you do in life, whereever you go in life, whatever you experience in life, that is your testimony; it is the story of your relationship with God. Your life is a permanent relationship with Him, and whatever happens during that relationship is part of the story of the relationship.
There are going to be sometimes that story is all rainbows and roses — “God gave me a great spouse and a great job and great kids and I’m just so blessed!” And that, to be sure, is a wonderful testimony. There are going to be times when that story is one of healing — “I got sick and God cured me up!” Again, wonderful. There are times that it’s a story of redemption — “I couldn’t overcome my addiction to reality TV shows, but God took that vice away from me!” And that’s great, too.
But there are times that none of those things are the case. There are times that you get sick and He doesn’t cure you up the way you want. There are times that your addiction to reality TV shows is costing you everything you hold dear, and He doesn’t just take it away from you.
There are times that you know you’re somewhere you shouldn’t be, next to someone who doesn’t believe in God, and has no problem being there. And that’s the difference. You do care, because you do know. Because it’s part of the story; it’s part of the relationship. Even though it’s not rainbows and roses, even in that, it’s how you know He’s real, it’s how you know He’s there.
We focus on the fact that because our life is our testimony, we should live the sort of story we want to tell. But, the truth is, there are many parts of that story that are beyond our control.
The question then becomes —
This is your testimony. This is your love story with God.
What do you do with it?