inspiration: my written testimony
I don't think I've ever fully written out my testimony. I've shared bits and pieces of my journey on Faith Overflow throughout the years. But yesterday, I had lunch with a friend and I shared my entire story with her. It was so encouraging to see how God used our conversation and though we don't know each other well (yet!), so much of our stories collide and connect. I love when God works divine encounters and reveals to us that, though we grow in different times, places, experience different seasons and circumstances, we all have themes and moments that create divine connection points to others' stories.
I woke up this morning feeling like it was time I share my full testimony.
Maybe, just maybe, you'll read it and find common themes and similar events in your story.
I feel like my testimony has several major phases.
Phase One: Growing up "in church" and "getting saved"
Growing up, I spent every weekend with my grandparents. I would go to church with my grandmother every Sunday morning. It was a conservative Baptist church that seemed to focus more on fire and brimstone than grace and mercy. I just vividly remember the preacher talking and reading from the Bible and then during the middle of the message, the handkerchief would come out. He would start sweating and yelling. And so my context for church for most of my life was that preachers yelled!
(Side note: there is a story of when I was young - maybe 4 or 5 - I was playing or doing something, but I started yelling. And my grandmother came in the room and said "Nikki, are you okay?!" and I responded, "Yes, MomPom, I'm just preaching!!")
That was my context for church.
My parents also, never taught me about Jesus, just to always be a good person. Do the right thing. Don't lie, steal, cheat. Love, be nice, be generous.
When I was in late elementary school, we had new neighbors move in. Joyann, is still one of my best friends to this day, and though we've spent more years apart and we can go months without speaking, but I always know she is there for me. But they were a Christian family, went to a church that was much different than my grandmothers (the preacher didn't yell!) and they were involved in AWANA.
I went with them to AWANA, got involved, learned Scriptures, played games, won several Bible quizzes. And during this entire process, I got saved. I look back on this time and genuinely believe that I was saved. I remember believing in God and knowing that my life was for a greater purpose. But at this time, I was also entering middle school and really trying to find my identity. AWANA only lasted through like sixth or seventh grade and I was too insecure for "youth group" - I didn't fit in, I felt like I was surrounded by hypocrisy, and so I stopped going to church all together.
This pattern continued in middle and high school: I judged those who went to church but didn't live much like "Christians". Ironic, huh?
Phase Two: The "Aha-Jesus" moment
Fast forward to college, my roommate freshman year, Brooke, who I am also still close to, was involved in a church and so I started going with her. This church was unlike both churches I "grew up in" - they worshiped with drums and were really hip and the preacher was really down-to-earth and had a mohawk. Needless to say, I loved it!
I remember on Easter 2008, there was a book on our chairs at church called "50 Reasons why Jesus came to die" by John Piper. I remember reading through the book and having an "AHA-Jesus!" moment. I recalled Scriptures that I had memorized so many years before and it finally just "clicked" - being a Christian was all about following Jesus. It wasn't about believing in God, but about believing in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I rededicated my life to Christ, realizing that I had missed the mark for so many years, realizing that it wasn't about works or doing more good than bad, but that it was about putting my faith in a man named Jesus.
Phase Three: Knowing Jesus
Shortly after my Aha-Jesus moment, I began dating a friend of mine. We had gone to church together several times and after some random conversation and events, we realized we liked each other. But after several months of dating, our relationship took some wrong turns and led to some poor decisions for both of us. It quickly became an unhealthy and ungodly relationship and we broke up after a little over a year of dating.
It was a roller coaster ride that ultimately ended in October 2009 and I. was. broken.
I had put all my identity in the relationship, lost connections with friends I had made, strained relationship with family and after all was said and done, I felt utterly and completely alone. I had hit rock bottom.
I had gone to a church - Grace Community Church - a handful of times, but decided to get more involved to try and piece myself together. I got involved in the college ministry group, got involved in a Bible study, and shortly after that, started serving in kid's ministry.
While I was there, I truly experienced unconditional love, grace, and mercy. They really lived up to their name and through them, I understood what it truly meant to be a Christ-follower - to live surrendered to Christ and to be the Church. I was sharing with my friend yesterday, that I remember being so broken, to the point of lying on my floor in my apartment and crying and listening to Tenth Avenue North's "Hold My Heart" (pretty sure there are countless blogs about this ;)). But seeing where I was at rock bottom and reflecting on how God has used so much pain and devastation in my life to shape me into the woman He needs me to be now is so encouraging.
Grace Community Church was a vessel that God used in my life at the right place at the right time to build me back. When bones are broken, as they heal, they become stronger than they were before. The breakup was literally the broken bone and GCC was the cast that I needed in that moment to become stronger than I was before.
Ultimately, the relationships I built there led me to my job in Charleston and my connection and involvement with Seacoast Church. A lot of the pain I endured during that relationship in 2009 strengthened me for the relationship that began in 2012. I'm thankful for my story and I'm always encouraged by others' stories.
We all have unique tales to tell.
I would love to hear yours - firstname.lastname@example.org - and to be encouraged by the greatness of our God!