I’m a pretty open book when it comes to sharing my story – my life – with people. I have enjoyed, on a couple occasions, sharing my story publicly. In September, I had the opportunity to speak at a women’s retreat put on by the church I grew up in. It was my first time speaking to a crowd of mostly adults, and it was pretty awesome.
People gave me great feedback about my story and encouraged me to keep on sharing, but there was one thing I heard a few times that struck a chord, “You have such a powerful testimony for someone so young. I wish my testimony was like that.”
I was bothered because, without God, my testimony is weak.
I was asked to speak at that conference about 8 months in advance. Now, I had decided my sophomore year of college that I was done procrastinating for LIFE. It was my second attempt (I didn’t last a week freshman year), and it finally stuck. It was nothing short of a miracle.
The theme for the retreat was seasons of life, and I was asked to talk about losing my son, along with anything I felt led to add. Naturally, my non-procrastinating self decided I would write up my story way in advance and have plenty of time to spare, so I could memorize it, and I would seem sooo natural when I was on the stage.
I started writing right away. I had plenty of life experiences to talk about, but I only had 30 minutes to speak. It was a challenge deciding what to leave in and what to take out. I would write out a couple pages, read it, and realize it was crap and delete it all. It took a couple weeks of me doing that over and over before I finally acknowledged the problem – it was me. Even though it was my life and my story, I had never been the author, but I sure was trying to be.
So I said, “Okay, God. I’ll wait. I’ll wait for You to give me the words that You want me to share with these women.”
And that’s just what I did.
It wasn’t easy, mind you. I was not a procrastinator, and waiting for God to give me the words felt a whole lot like procrastination because they didn’t come that week. Or that month. He didn’t give me anything until TWO WEEKS before the retreat. Two. Weeks.
I sat down at my computer and started typing. I was relying fully on God to give me the words. It was a little scary, but mostly exciting. Some days I would write a full page. There was one day I only wrote one sentence, and I remember saying out loud, “Are you serious, God? You know the retreat is in two days, and you’re giving me one sentence? Okay, then.”
I knew the words were coming from Him because when He would stop giving them, I would have the most intense writer’s block I have ever had in my life, and I knew I was done for the day. I surrendered my need for control to Him.
The day of the retreat, I was still missing the end of my testimony. Yes, I know my story. Yes, I could have ended it any way that I wanted, but I had decided to let God write it, knowing that He would say things in a way that would impact the people who would hear it. I sat at my computer fully expecting God to give me the end right away, but as I stared at the screen I had nothing.
I thought, “I’ll record what I have and listen to it while I drive to the camp. Then, when the recording is over, I bet God will give me the ending.”
As I sat in the front row of the chapel with my family, I thought, “Okay, God, you’re testing me. You want to see me being obedient, so as soon as I step on that stage and show You I’m ready to do whatever You call me to, You’ll give me the end.”
Nope. He didn’t give me the end. That’s when I realized what He wanted – all of it. He wanted me to trust Him with the story He had written. I prayed that He would speak through me, so I started talking, and when I ran out of words on my paper, I kept going. I don’t even remember what I said, but I know God came through in a big way.
Although it felt like torture at times, I learned a lot during those eight months leading up to the retreat.
I learned that I am not the one who makes my story powerful, my story alone is not innately powerful, and I am not the only one whose story can change lives.
Having experienced much loss doesn’t mean my story is automatically powerful and encouraging. That was terribly evident as I tried to write it out in the beginning. Although it was honest, it had no depth.
But when I submitted to the One who had already written my story, it came to life.
There isn’t a person alive whose testimony can’t be used by God. To the ones who think their testimony is meaningless, powerless, or pointless: If you try to find the gold in it on your own, you may never see it, but if you’re willing to let God write your story, I think you’d be pleasantly surprised at the result.