I used to feel reluctant to share my testimony because I didn’t think it was particularly interesting or relevant to others.
I was raised in a Christian home, and my mother was the embodiment of everything I have come to know a Christian should be – sincere, loving, patient, tolerant, strong, sympathetic, faithful, vigilant, prayerful, one who acted out her faith in her everyday living.
From my earliest memories, I spent my summers at a church camp just 7 miles north of the small Northern Ontario town in which we lived. Learning about God, enjoying His creation, worshipping with others was a normal part of growing up. I sang in the church choir and regularly attended the youth group.
This was really only the start, however. As a teenager, I was very actively involved with the Presbyterian Young People’s Society (PYPS). The neat thing about this organization was that four times a year we held retreat weekends in various parts of Southern Ontario. I would have to say that it was through regular participation in these events and meeting with other Christian young people that my “head knowledge” of earlier days turned into “heart knowledge”. I can’t even say specifically when this happened. All I know is that the “ritual” of going to church on Sunday and doing “Christian things” changed very clearly into a desire to know more about God and to understand His plan for my life.
I very clearly remember the words of the minister who conducted a pre-marital counseling session with the two of us. He talked about making God the centre of our marriage, and clearly said, “and on Sunday morning, you are [to be] in church – every week.” I remember thinking, “That’s right. Not because I’m ‘supposed to be’, but because I want to be.”
Of course, there are ups and downs – that’s a normal part of life. But I can honestly say that I am happiest and things are going “best” for me when I am close to God. By “best”, I don’t mean “prosperous” as the world defines. I mean having an inner happiness and sense of peace that “all is well”, and the assurance that God will provide for all our needs regardless of what comes along. I have personally experienced His power and presence in my life in a variety of ways – through witnessing the birth of our two children, through seeing his power in bringing young people to faith in Him at a summer camp I now help manage, in giving strength to families and friends dealing with illness or death, in providing for our everyday needs far more abundantly than we could ever imagine.
Some would say this is just “fate” or “circumstance”. I know better. I saw God’s hand at work personally a little over a year ago. My parents are about a generation older than my wife’s. (My father is the same age as my wife’s grandmother.) In January of 2000, after much debate about the timing and whether or not my mother’s health would handle such a trip, we made plans for my mother and I to travel to western Canada to visit her siblings and their spouses, all of whom were “getting on in years” and suffering from various sorts of health problems. About a week before we were due to leave, we received word that her brother-in-law (who had been ill with cancer) had died. We chose not to change our travel plans to go sooner – instead, we arrived just after the funeral. This was actually the best time for us to have been there. My mother was able to spend time with her sister to help her deal with the loss of a husband after the rest of the crowds had gone. This was a special time for both of them. During our visit, she managed to spend time with her brother, who was also terminally ill with cancer, and her other sister who has had many lung problems. This was a time to celebrate memories, support one another, and just to spend time together with her brother and sisters.
Not until a few months after we returned did we understand the significance of God’s timing in our plans. Within two weeks of our return, her sister (the one who had recently lost her husband) suffered a massive stroke and died. Within two months, her brother succumbed to the cancer, and a further two months later her other sister was gone as well. Looking back, we could clearly see God’s hand directing both the “need to go” and the timing of our trip to provide this one last opportunity for that family to be together.
Now back to the initial thought. I said, “I used to feel reluctant to share my testimony…” By this I meant that because my conversion wasn’t “dramatic” or “earth shattering” (that is, a “road to Damascus”-level conversion), I thought my testimony wasn’t really of much use. I have since come to know that it isn’t my place to decide what is or is not “useful”. When I am called to, “give an accounting of myself,” my part is actually the easy one – I just have to “tell the story”. God’s Spirit then does the rest, and will use my words to accomplish His purpose in His own time.