I remember throughout high school hearing testimonies at youth group about how God had brought people out of drugs, abuse, divorce, poverty, alcohol, sexual perversion, eating disorders, gangs, and so many other BIG things that I had never had to deal with. I grew up with both parents, in church, middle-class, and sheltered or self-regulated enough to avoid any serious bondages. I had problems, but I never considered any of them life-or-death.
The summer before my senior year, I was on a mission trip to Tennessee when I fell in the Ocoee River. In case you didn't know, that's where they did the Olympic kayak races. I was also fully-clothed and lost my class ring in the process. Not being a strong swimmer, I was scared. I thought I was going under. My friend Henry, who was standing right next to me before I fell in, reached his hand out, and I apparently gave him a death grip. And, just that day, I had told the Lord that I wanted to have a testimony of what He had done to save my life.
What I didn't realize at that time was how much the Lord had already done. Many things could've happened in my life that would've put me in a much different place than I am now, but you know what? The Lord didn't allow those things to happen. For example:
- My grandfather's family moved to Ohio in 1927 when the floods in northeast Louisiana caused the sawmill business to dry up. They moved back a year later, and Papa ended up going to Louisiana Tech, where he met Granny.
- Papa was nearly killed in the Battle of the Bulge. He was shot five times in the extremities, but the bullet that had his name on it was stopped by - get this - a Bible and a compass, in his pocket, above his heart. Granted, Daddy had already been born, but his life and mine would have been MUCH different without Papa.
- Daddy, after moving around for most of his adult life and generally avoiding God, moved into a house next to a single mother with two gradeschool age boys in 1979. One day, he walked next door to talk to her about recruiting them to play on the soccer team he coached. They got married in 1981 and he started going back to church with her. I was born in 1983. He wouldn't have met her if he lived anywhere else.
- When I was four, Daddy lost his job in Baton Rouge and decided to try to find a job in Maine. He lived up there six months and had plans to move the family up there. After six months, he moved back to Louisiana and got a job in Lafayette, then in Shreveport, where we eventually moved.
- One day when I was in kindergarten, Daddy got hit by a driver who ran a red light, immediately after he dropped me off at school. The teachers tried to tell me what happened, but I didn't even process what they were trying to tell me. I don't think I ever really considered the magnitude of what happened. I have no clue how I would have handled the death of my father at a young age, and I certainly wouldn't have been the same person without Daddy's example in my life.
I think I see where the problem stems from, though. Take a person who has been victimized by sexual abuse, coming from a broken home, where drugs and alcohol run rampant, where there seems to be no hope at all. Are they likely to identify with God as a Father if they can't trust their own father? Of course not, and this is a common situation. This is why it's astounding when the love of Jesus comes in and changes all of that. Now take me, with my good family and the fact that we never lacked anything, even in the toughest times. Yes, I certainly had my share of problems, but they seem so small when compared to someone else. Too small, actually, as i feel almost discouraged from telling my testimony, as though I'd be bragging.
So when you meet that person who has an astounding testimony of life change, congratulate them. Remind them that they went through what they did because God wanted to make them stronger, to prove what they were made of, to prove they could handle it. And, now that they've come out of it, they're called to do bigger and greater things with their lives, namely to let God use them to help others in similar situations.
And for the rest of us? There are no small testimonies.