The Testimony

My testimony is something I generally think about in passing, which I can’t work out to be a good or a bad thing. Dwelling on the past is never safe but forgetting where I came from isn’t something I want to do. I want to remember the grace upon grace that has been given to me. Inspired by a baptism at church tonight, I’m sharing.

To add a bit of clarity to my testimony, my parents both grew up in Christian homes. My mother’s family is quite conservative, while my father’s parents are devout Catholics, my grandmother being a Marist. My father clung to his traditions, while my mother left her beliefs behind when she left home at 16.

I was baptised at birth into the Catholic church, went to Catholic primary school in Sydney, then we moved to Wollongbar. Aside from the general things you remember as a little kid (for me, it was injuries upon injuries as I inherited my father’s clumsiness), I remember going to Sunday School as a tiny tot. I don’t know how we ended up there, to be honest. It wasn’t a Catholic Sunday School. And I can’t imagine why my mother would have sent us there aside from having God’s hand all over it. I remember memorising verses and singing at the top of my lungs for Jesus, knowing that He existed, that God was real, but that was about it. Dad took us to Catholic Sunday School once, and my brother and I absolutely hated it. So we got to go back to our normal Sunday School.

I turned 12, and I went to high school. Catholic high school, because my brother was ‘rebellious’ and Catholic school was meant to put him back in line.

One day in science class, the parish priest came to visit, where he told us about the creation story. He ended it with, “It’s a myth, though – it’s just a metaphor for evolution.”

And, because I inherited my mother’s lack of filter, I stuck up my hand and asked the priest, “If you can say one part of the Bible’s not true, how do you have any basis for Jesus being born of a virgin and crucified on a cross for your sins? Surely that could be a metaphor for Jesus being born to a normal couple and dying peacefully of old age in his sleep.”

I got kicked out of class that day, and I was absolutely fuming over those contradictions. In my mind, Christianity was therefore all the same. So on the way home from school, I informed my dad that I no longer believed in anything, that if God was there, we could each do our own thing and exist quite happily without one another. Naturally, Dad was not impressed, and he’d also heard about the scene in Science, so I was grounded for a fair little while.

I avoided Sunday School, my mother – who by this time, had become a Christian – peeping her head in on Sundays to check if I’d go. I just wanted to forget pretty much everything, you know? Just give up on it all. I went to Youth Group, though, because my friends went. I wasn’t going without chances to see my friends. Little bits of Scripture kept penetrating my heart, and it was softening, slowly softening.

Around this time, a few more of my friends started going to Sunday School. I returned on the proviso that I could go into the same class as them, being taught by Robyn (who still is one of my favourite people in existence). And – miracle of all miracles – what she taught us wasn’t contradictory. I asked her why, and her answer? “Because I’m teaching from the Bible,” she said, or something to that effect. Honestly, my memory’s terrible, but basically it was what the Bible said, no human perception tainting it. It was what it was, and Robyn taught gently, Robyn had peace, and I remember just looking at her going, “I want what she’s got.” That faith, that assurance, I wanted it to be mine.

I still thought God existed, so I thought I was okay. One night at Youth Group, though, when I was 14, Robyn’s husband showed us a DVD about a man who had become a Christian and whose family were devout Muslims, and how the fallout from his conversion led him to lose his family and friends. He finished the video by reiterating the message of the Gospel:

“There is no one righteous, not even one… there is no one who does good, not even one… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:10, 12, 23)

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)

It was a lightbulb for me. It wasn’t enough to just go, “Well God’s there, and I believe.” It was confessing my sins, confessing that I screw up multitudes and I’m not good enough to make it right. That my attitude of not needing God was, frankly, stupid. That thinking I could get on fine letting God do His own thing was useless. That not accepting the incredible gift of salvation was signing my life away to death.

That night, I went home deep in thought. We were getting our house renovated, so I plonked onto my mattress on the floor and thought. I gave my life to Christ that night, and honestly? Best decision ever.

Of course, I second-guess everything. “What if I’m not really saved?” I would wonder, panicking at the thought of Christ coming back before I had dissected my heart fully to confirm that yes, my faith was legit. And I just used to ask God to show me if my faith was real, whether I was saved by Him. I remember this moment so clearly – kneeling beside my bed at my Nana’s house, begging for some guidance, and I aimlessly opened my Bible. Normally, I land on Psalms when I do that (it’s a pretty safe bet). However, this time I opened straight onto Exodus 15:2.

“The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise Him.”

I was pretty well assured after that. Man, does He answer prayer or what.

The fun thing about the Christian life is that in everything there is hope, which I found out first hand maybe a year after I made the decision to commit my life to Christ. Depression struck me down, and it struck hard. Without getting into the details of it, those were shocking years. I couldn’t get along with friends, family, myself. No one. I quit school, and I remember being curled up in a ball sobbing when Robyn came over and sat with me as I wrapped myself in blankets and couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. She directed me back to the Bible and I drank the words up, and I found comfort in that. It didn’t disappear overnight, but by God’s grace it left.

Later that year – 7 years ago, in 16 days! – I was baptised. It was freezing cold and my best friend and I were baptised on the same day. I can remember sitting in the back seat of the car on the way home, wet hair clinging to my shoulders, just beaming. I’m baptised, was all I could think.

Fast forward a few years to last year and this year. I’d been neglecting my walk with Christ something fierce. Making excuses. “I’m too busy with uni,” she said, as she lolled in bed watching movies and procrastinating assignments. “I’m too tired,” she said, refusing to go to bed any earlier than 2am. I chose the wrong things, and I became weak, utterly weak.

And what happened? I was brought to my knees.

Earlier this year, the depression hit again. My prayers were utterly selfish, begging God to just take me now because I could not deal with anything (and there was one point where I heard God very clearly tell me that it was not my time to go yet). And then I hit my lowest point. My brother booked me an appointment with his GP, who determined I needed to see a psychologist. He recommended his usual therapist and I took my referral thinking (idiotically) that God had given up on me for my waywardness. But oh, He had not. The doctor’s therapist was booked for 3 months solid, but “unusually,” said the receptionist, one of their other therapists had a client cancel all his appointments moments earlier. I took it, took the therapist’s name, and went home to stalk.

My therapist was one of the top psychologists in the country, which was pretty cool. But what actually threw me? He was a Christian. A Christian who speaks about mental health issues around the country at Christian conferences. (Also, who looks remarkably like my father crossed with Robert Downey Jr.)

God spoke to me through this man, and through returning to church (He blessed me with an incredible church up here, and everyone there is so kind and lovely). The therapist reminded me of the importance of finding my identity in Christ, not in my family, not in my friends, not in myself. And I ran back to Christ with a vengeance. It’s such a hard thing to remember in a world where everything is about finding who you are and what makes you, you. I’m getting there. I’m slowly getting there.

I’m not good enough, nowhere near good enough. But thankfully, blessedly, I have a Saviour who took the punishment for me, who loves me enough to do that and is faithful to me even when I am faithless. I have a Saviour who will complete the good work He has started in me, and He intends to do that until the day I go to Him. I am saved by grace alone, no works required.

Every day I’m growing in Him. And honestly, it’s hard work at times (especially because of how much time I wasted neglecting my relationship with Christ); getting good habits in place again, spending daily time with Christ. Getting involved in church.

Though as a testament to my Lord, I will grow stronger, because He gives me the strength to get through every day, and His grace is more than enough for me.

Don’t get me wrong – there are times where I doubt myself. I doubt whether I have what it takes to commit to everything. And that’s when God gently prods me back to “By grace alone” (I imagine He spends a lot of His time wondering at how my thoughts became so loco). There are times when I let fear get the better of me, or I succumb to temptation and lies.

But God keeps building me up. He has brought me this far, and I have faith that He’s not abandoning me.

If you’ve made it this far, I salute you. I have written essays at uni that were shorter than this. But hey, it needed to get out.

SDG1

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