Dear new believer,
About a year ago, I received a text from one of our pastors—he'd had a family situation come up and needed someone to cover for him in our baptism class that weekend. "Can you help me out?" Without much more than a second's hesitation, I accepted the opportunity. As I read through our teaching resources, it was interesting to get a greater sense of where our family of churches stands on baptism in general, but also how we encourage those being baptized to prepare to share their story.
We tend to follow a pretty standard three-point summary:
- what your life was like before becoming a Christian
- what happened to draw you to Christ
- what your life is like now.
I'm pretty sure that there's no Christian who couldn’t divide up their story in this fashion.
But that doesn't mean our stories are meant to fit neatly into a template.
The first time I realized this was when I tried to share my testimony in Honduras. It was 2006, I'd been a Christian for just over a year, it was my first missions trip, and it was super-awkward. It wasn't that I didn't know what happened (though I did), nor was it that I was particularly uncomfortable in front of a crowd (though I was). What made it awkward was the way I was telling the story wasn't right.
Remember the standard three-point summary? Well, usually when you hear it, it goes something like this:
"Before I was a Christian, my life was a mess. I was living for myself, joyful on the outside but empty on the inside, numbing my insecurities with drugs, alcohol and/or sex with random strangers. One night, things reached a breaking point—I hit rock bottom—and I gave my life to Jesus. After that, I realized I'd found what I'd been looking for and now I'm living my life for him, serving in my church and found an extra five dollars in my coat this morning."
Okay, that probably came across a little cheeky, but I don't mean it to be glib. When I hear how God has brought someone to this obvious breaking point, and taken them through the proverbial fire, and when I see how their lives have been changed through their relationship with Jesus Christ, I am so thankful. But not everyone has an obvious rock bottom moment. And for some of us, the story doesn't get better at the end.
Take me, for example: I didn't grow up in a Christian home. I knew next to nothing of the things of God, and I knew almost no Christians, but I knew I wanted nothing to do with either of them. I didn't feel any particular spiritual emptiness or lack of fulfillment. In fact, within three years of graduating college, the girl—one who was way out of my league and who I had wooed away from a cult (true story)—had purchased our first house, and we both had decent paying jobs as graphic designers. And then we met Jesus and everything was terrible.
You think I'm joking.
And I am.
But not really.
When Jesus saved me, my "crisis point" wasn't one involving drugs or gambling or pornography or anything like that. Like I said, my life was actually pretty great from my perspective. What God had to do to get my attention was let me sleep through a 10-week evangelistic program at my friends' church, buy a house down the street from a Christian bookstore, decide to buy a Bible so I could mock Christians more intelligently, and finally be physically attacked by demons.
I'll give you a minute.
So, that's the kind of crisis point I had. And as you can guess, it doesn't really fit into the traditional crisis point narrative. And what happened after didn't, either. See, after we—Oh, remember the girl? That's my wife, Emily. She was right beside me when all that terrifying stuff happened—asked Jesus to rescue us, everything turned into a giant mess. We were immediately thrown into trying to figure out the complications of our relationship as it currently was. We had to deal with a whole pile of family conflict because all of a sudden we had convictions about things that we had been totally fine with just days or weeks prior, and one of these conflicts escalated into a pretty huge blowout with my now in-laws. Then my convictions lead to difficulty at work because of some of the projects we had. And then the financial challenges came. And then…
You get the idea right?
This is why I had trouble with the standard crisis narrative: for me, the life crisis came after becoming a Christian. Truthfully, had I said "no" to going to the course thing at my friends' church, and had I never gone down the street to buy a Bible, I seriously doubt I would ever have experienced any sort of opposition. There would not have been the same sort of family drama, work conflicts or (possibly) even the financial challenges we faced. And the demons certainly wouldn't have bothered with me—after all, I was on their side!
Now, I could probably spin it to fit the narrative a little more closely if I really tried. And as you think on how you came to faith, you might find that you can too. But you know what? Don't. Just tell your story the way it happened. Don't try to tell it in a way that you think will be more compelling or enticing. Don’t try to make it fit anyone's expectations or anything. The way God saved you is the way God saved you, and that's enticing enough. So rejoice and be glad in this, okay?