testimony (n): the story of how a person became a Christian
Within Christian communities, you hear the word testimony a lot. In my experience, testimonies are typically very inspirational and often tell of a dramatic moment that changed a person’s life forever. For a long time, I didn’t like testimonies, because I felt like I didn’t have a good one. I still don’t necessarily like the term testimony, because of what I relate it to, but I would like to share my faith story – where I started to where I am now and the mess in between.
Like so many, I was born into a Christian household. My parents were happily married and we went to church every Sunday. We attended a Church of Christ until I was nine. This type of church is quite traditional with attire, worship, and preaching, so when we switched to a nondenominational church, I was blown away by this totally different style. Even as a kid, I could recognize the differences – we got to wear jeans to church, there was a band playing the music during worship, and kids had their own little church service geared just for them. It was obvious everyone in the family liked it there, so we stayed and started attending regularly.
After a few months at this church, I was baptized. To this day, I regret it. I am told it was my decision, that I came to my parents and told them that I wanted to be baptized and could clearly express what that meant. Whether that is true or not, I am not sure. I don’t remember the day. I don’t remember the actual baptizing. I don’t remember any of it. What I do remember is being too young to actually understand how huge of a decision I was making and how it would alter my life. Throughout my life, I have constantly wondered if my baptism was legitimate.
As I grew up, I continued to be very involved in this church. When I joined the youth group, this need I had to be perfect had already set in. I believed I needed to do right all the time and never mess up. I didn’t cuss, party, drink, smoke – if a situation could be considered bad, I wasn’t involved. This behavior and mentality was created more out of fear of making a mistake than an understanding of grace. I believe living with this fear did me a huge disservice later on down my road.
For a couple of years, I felt that I was exactly who I was supposed to be and where I was supposed to be. I had two best friends and a handful of frienquaintances. I was involved, I felt accepted, I believed I was happy. Eventually, I realized that I did not fit in, these friendships fell apart, and I began to feel lonely. During this time, we got a new youth pastor that thought everything was a joke and the way he treated me was just the icing on the cake. All of this hit me really hard and I began to alienate myself. It started when I made the choice to stop going to youth group. It was during all of this that I realized who genuinely cared about me and that I had been just going through the motions to make those around me happy.
During my junior year of high school, I decided to start attending a youth small group again. I chose one opposite of my ex-friends in order to get a fresh start. It was a good group of people, but I refused to get close to anyone or open up. I went, I learned, I participated, and I began this impossible task of becoming the perfect Christian. Having grown up in church, I knew all the Christian lingo necessary to succeed at this quest; phrases like “God spoke to me” and “I felt God leading me to do this” littered my speech. I became an incredible actress. I could see how proud my parents and small group leader were of me, so how could I tell them that I felt nothing and that I didn’t really hear God? So I bottled it up and went on pretending.
My faith during college was a rollercoaster with a lot of difficult twists and turns. When I started college, I was determined to find a good Christian crowd to hang out with and learn from. I found a Bible study that I liked for awhile, but after a couple of semesters, it fizzled out. I eventually joined the BSM. It was inspiring and encouraging at first, but little by little I realized I had different viewpoints and did not appreciate their pushy attitudes. While distancing myself from them, I was treated extremely poorly.
During the spring of my sophomore year, I had a complete breakdown. It started with an exhausting day and ended with me sitting alone in my car in a vacant parking lot. I was sobbing and yelling at God. I understood that they say He is silent and that this silence is supposed to help you lean on Him, but sometimes I needed answers and His silence just pushed me away. I was tired of crying out and hearing nothing, feeling nothing. After this meltdown, I felt different; kind of free. I decided that if I wasn’t important to God then He wasn’t going to be important to me. I made the decision to take a step back from my faith; to stop going to church, reading my Bible, and praying. I just wanted to live life, make mistakes, and figure out what I believed.
It was during this time that I took the idea of making mistakes to heart and threw my expectations of perfection out the window. I started drinking, went to a few parties, and dropped a cuss word here and there. At first this lifestyle seemed so great. I felt so light and airy, but eventually the light and airy turned to empty. I didn’t have anything to believe in and I had no accountability system, but I was too proud to admit this to anyone. Little by little my negative thoughts and depressive feelings grew until I was one big ball of anger and hate. I didn’t know what to do and completely broke down.
With nowhere else to turn, I shared how I was feeling on social media which encouraged a friend of mine to invite me to her church small group. I decided to give it a shot. It was awkward, but I knew I needed to be there. I was in a really bad place, but I felt like these people accepted me. It was at my fourth or fifth time attending that I met my husband, Jeremiah. For awhile this church seemed like a great place. I attended for a little over a year regularly and was very involved. I liked the people, but I was pretending in my walk with God. I was still just going through the motions. I graduated with a fiance, but a stale faith.
Jeremiah and I were married three months after I graduated and life just went on. We started attending a small local church that we liked, but I was still not praying or reading my Bible regularly. At this point, I was happily married and satisfied just going to church on Sundays. Everytime I tried to dig into my faith and make it something real, my need to be perfect set in and I got overwhelmed and ended up just giving up. In order to avoid that, I just settled into my usual routine of going through the motions.
In March of 2018, I found out I was pregnant. I was over-the-moon excited about starting a family! When I told Jeremiah, his reaction solidified that this was a good thing. We were so happy and full of joy as we learned all we could about pregnancy. During our first ultrasound at ten weeks, the technician was really quiet for awhile and then said she was having trouble seeing the baby. We were asked to come in the next week for a follow up ultrasound.
After the technician said she couldn’t find our baby I had lost it and I never fully recovered. I spent the entirety of the next week holed up in our closet sobbing, silent, or sleeping. I cried out to God asking Him to let our baby be okay. I made deals with Him telling Him I would be better, more involved, if He would save our baby. I prayed relentlessly begging Him to let the ultrasound findings just be a mistake.
When we arrived for our follow up ultrasound, we were given the news that our baby had passed away. I was heartbroken. I was depressed. I was angry. I can’t even explain how traumatizing experiencing a miscarriage is. There is so much more to it than just hearing the news that your baby was no longer thriving in your womb. I was a wreck and I felt betrayed by God.
I avoided God and all things faith-related. I stayed away from church, I stopped praying, I kept my Bible closed. I couldn’t comprehend how He could let such a tragedy happen to me. But in August, I found out I was pregnant again. What should have been the most amazing news was absolutely terrifying. I was so scared that it was going to happen again. When we found out that this baby was thriving and doing really well, I was so relieved. The fear was still there, but I was able to find some joy.
For six months, I kept God at arms-length. But staying away from my faith didn’t help me feel better and I knew I needed to make a change for this new baby. I needed to find a way to heal, so that I could be the best mother I could be for her. In November, I went back to church for the first time and it felt so strange. I didn’t sing. I couldn’t take communion. But I wasn’t in a hurry to leave. We kept coming back week after week and each week I could feel my heart softening.
By January, I was excited to attend service, I was reading my Bible every day, I was praying often, and I was attending a small group. But this time, I didn’t feel the need to be perfect. I was more than content being honest, broken, and vulnerable before God in order to find healing. And God changed my life!
It’s now April; our baby is due any day now, the small group I started attending has become a place full of honesty and friendship, I look forward to Sunday mornings, I talk to God for hours like He is a best friend and not a distant relative. Because I opened my mind and heart to God for healing, He has shown up for me in so many ways I could never have dreamed of! Although my miscarriage is still a hard thing for me to think about, I am no longer full of hate or anger and it no longer holds me back from the joys of my current pregnancy. After my husband and I started tithing, I received a promotion and a raise which provided us the funds to pay for our new baby and to buy a house.
That is my story. I’m not proud of the pattern I have of pushing God away when things get hard or when things don’t go my way. I don’t think you need to suffer through a tragedy to have a testimony and I don’t believe there is such a thing as a good testimony. I wish it didn’t take losing a baby to bring me back to God’s open arms, but this is my story.