I remember the first time I went on a mission trip. Part of the preparation was to write your testimony. What has God done in my life? Before we were to enter into the world of lost souls we needed to be ready to give an account of how ours was saved. I remember secretly feeling discouraged. I knew my need for God was great, but I felt like my story sucked.
More than a decade later I think I better understand the rhythm and the plot of this thing called life. It's less climax and more rising action, less resolution and more character development. It's a series of turning points, not always a giant event.
It's less grandiose and more subtle. It's beautiful and tragic. It's more cuss words than Christian buzz words. It hurts and it's wonderful. It's less extraordinary and more ordinary. Breakthrough comes but not as often as we wish.
At age ten I prayed a prayer and asked Jesus into my heart. I only phrase it that way because culturally I'm sure that resonates with many of you. I'm not here to break that apart theologically. It was just the first turning point. In a simple way, I sensed there was more to this life. I was compelled to gaze upon Jesus and respond.
I remember the small, well air-conditioned room and the table we sat at as a church staff member flipped through a binder with a basic Gospel presentation. I didn't know much at the time, but I knew I needed God and wanted everyone to know it, too. I was baptized shortly after.
I've had a paradigm shift since the very clean, neat experience of Christianity I had as a ten year-old. If there is one thing my twenty-seven year-old heart sees now that my childhood heart couldn't is that Christianity is rarely represented by a climate-controlled, organized, neat binder. It's messy. We are messy.
Our pastor who baptized me had an affair years down the road. It rattled the church to the core. I remember the sadness I felt when I found out. Not because I couldn't understand how people can fall, but because of the reminder that none of us are immune to the weight of sin.
I was recently told another story about a different pastor who cheated on his wife. Small town, small congregation, major failure. "They were all crushed," the person told me. "I guess they just didn't think he was that kind of person." My heart sank as I tried to humbly offer my response, "You know, we are all that type of person."
The pages of our story are ripped and stained, covered in blood, sweat, and tears, laced with insecurity, infidelity, betrayal, failure, small victories, fallbacks, hangs-ups, breakdowns, and the occasional triumph.
My first turning point was sterile and tame, unlike the war we wage for most of our existence as believers. I'm grateful, though, for my childhood, the first turning point, the experiences I can now look back on with perspective.
Several years later, as a teenager entering high school, I found my next turning point, which is where I'll pick up again next week...