Today I’m going to do something a bit different. This post might not be for everyone, and it’s on the longer side. Because today, I’m sharing what in Christian circles is referred to as a testimony. Basically, the story of my walk with Christ. Things are going to get…vulnerable.
Now, typically, this blog is for writing-related things. But it’s also about me, and being a Christian is part of me.
I’ll be honest. I used to hate testimonies. A few weeks ago, I completed the membership class for my church, and one of the last things was writing down your testimony.
I felt like my testimony was at best lame and at worst a counter-testimony. “Hi, my name is Selina. I grew up in the church. I accepted Christ at eight. I’ve had lots of struggles, nearly walked away from the faith in high school, often still struggle with doubt and sin, and I can’t point at a moment when ‘everything changed’ because I became a Christian. I know we’re saved by grace, but I often feel like a bad Christian because I struggle with doing the things Christians should do.”
I feel like most testimonies are like allergy medication commercials. “Everything was blurry and foggy and I was wandering through life, but now I’m dancing in a field of flowers.” And that’s…not my experience with being a Christian.
My experience is struggling with depression. My experience is knowing I should read my Bible and not wanting to. My experience is times of spiritual growth and highs, and times of failure and having to remind myself, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) If my testimony wasn’t a miraculous change, did I even have a testimony?
But as I was talking with one of the pastors after the class, I realized I do. It’s just more long-term. It’s about divine intervention. It’s about providence.
So let me tell you my story.
My parents weren’t Christians when I was born. When I was two, they went to a parenting class in a public building, not knowing it was hosted by a church that met in that building. They met some great people who invited them to church, and they went. My parents got saved.
That church moved to another building as it grew. I accepted Christ. The church purchased its own building. I became a teenager.
High school is rough. You learn a lot about what the world is really like. You see hypocrisy you hadn’t noticed before. I saw people I thought were good Christians acting like…donkeys. I saw people suffering. I saw my family going through a hard time and struggling to stay together. I also found that rules were annoying, as high schoolers tend to do.
I was home schooled. Why is this relevant? Because my mom bought me science curricula that included apologetics and bought me apologetics books. Apologetics, if you don’t know, is showing reasons for why Christianity is true–arguments for God’s existence, the historicity of Christ and the Bible, evidence of a Creator, things like that. And I became convinced Christianity had to be true, even though I didn’t like my church anymore. Even though I was hurt by Christian friends.
To be honest, I was kind of a bitter believer. My attitude was–and sometimes still is–I believe, but I’m not happy about it. It’d be easier if this wasn’t true. I firmly believe often people don’t become Christians less because they honestly think it’s false, and more because they emotionally can’t let go of their own control of their lives. But, anyway.
My family moved churches. I didn’t care for that church. Since then, in the midst of other life things, I’ve tried a few churches before settling where I am now. But here’s the thing.
The church I’m going to now? When it first started, before I heard about it, it met in the building owned by the church I grew up in.
The building my church just bought and moved in to? It’s literally RIGHT NEXT TO the public building where my parents started going to church when I was two.
That could be coincidence. But I see God saying, “I saw you. This whole time. I’ve been watching, and I’ve been caring. I know where you are.”
I could ignore one coincidence. But there are others.
In 2012, after four years of saving and a couple opportunities that didn’t work out, I finally went on a tour of England and Scotland. I wanted just to see Scotland, but figured England would be fun, too. We stopped at Oxford on that trip. It was a funny group. All retired people and nineteen-year-old me. This older man and his wife told me as we were walking through Christ Church College (after knowing me a whole three days), “You’re smart. You could go to Oxford.” I literally laughed.
In 2013, I went to a two-week student worldview and apologetics conference. They had an info meeting during a break about a study abroad program in Oxford. On a whim, I went. The program sounded awesome, but it was intense, expensive, and aimed at people in four-year colleges. I was at a two-year community college. I talked to a lot of people and prayed. I decided I’d apply. If God wanted me there, I’d be accepted.
I was accepted.
I spent a year saving and fund-raising. Every March, I get a memory on Facebook. A desperate, heartbroken post talking about how I didn’t think I was going to be able to afford Oxford and would have to drop out. Every time I read it, I remember the tears that accompanied writing it.
But every September 1, I get the Facebook memories of flying from Denver to Heathrow. Because somehow I still don’t fully understand, God provided. I had enough money for the tuition, housing, and food. A friend used their frequent flier miles to buy my plane ticket. I even ended up with enough money to visit Wales and Ireland with my sister at the end of the semester.
I met some of my best friends on that trip. I learned what real community feels like. Because of those friends, I’ve driven coast-to-coast.
I moved to Maine for four and a half months last year and lived with one of my flatmates from Oxford. When I moved back, my mom flew out, and we visited Acadia before driving back to Colorado. As we were driving past fog-laced trees decked in autumn colors, I looked at my mom and said, “Remember how I begged you not to leave me at that student conference in 2013 because I was so nervous about all the people, but you wouldn’t let me back out?” (She was insistent at the time it was a spiritual battle. She was 100% right.) “If I had left like I wanted to, I wouldn’t have gone to Oxford. I wouldn’t have met Alexis. We wouldn’t be here right now.”
And that’s not even going into all the things–academically and spiritually–I learned while at that conference or in Oxford.
When I look back, I see God moving things into place. I see God saying, over and over again, “I know what you need. I see you. I’m here. I’m guiding you, even when you thought you were lost. Even when you’re not paying attention to me. Even when you’re doubting. I haven’t abandoned you.”
There are other, smaller things. Things that at the time, looked impossible but God somehow made work. Things that I hated, but something good still came out of them. Things that I might still have hurts over, but can see how it grew me.
My testimony isn’t short and pithy like it’s supposed to be. But I do have one. And if you feel like me, you probably do, too.
Until next time,