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Posts Tagged ‘salvation’

Testimonies, Interviews and Casual Conversations

As I apply and interview for various Christian organizations, there is one question that is inevitable, and yet the one I dread most: Can you tell us about your faith journey? I struggle with this question every single time. I typically draw together a few strands of my life:

  • I was homeschooled and my curriculum was heavily influenced by Scripture and so Scripture and prayer were a part of my daily life as long as I can remember
  • I was baptized in a Fellowship Baptist church when I was quite young – while my theology on baptism has shifted over the years, this was an important moment in my life and I was earnest. But I smile to think of what I could have shared as my testimony – my being saved from sin and my desire to follow Jesus.
  • We switched denominations a lot so I had a very rich and varied experience of church.
  • In my teens, we went to an Anglican church which is the place and time when I really started to distinguish my own faith from my family’s faith. It was in this church that I was “confirmed” – after weeks of preparation, the bishop laid hands on me and prayed for me, confirming my faith before the congregation.
  • I discovered the daily office in my teenage years and it is one of the things that held me together. I remember fondly lighting a candle, with music by John Michael Talbot in the background, saying evening prayer or compline.
  • I discovered a love for Scripture – a fascination that God would speak through words on a page and that it didn’t matter how many times I read a passage, God would STILL speak and there was something new there.
  • A pivotal moment in my life was feeling that God was calling me to ministry – not just as a member of the body of Christ, but as vocation. Specifically, I felt called to become an Anglican priest when at the time I was wanting to become a doctor. Much of my adult life has been wrestling and figuring out what that calling looks like. I remember one particular Sunday when I was working for an Anglo-Catholic church many years later realizing I am living into who God made me the most when I am working for a church and seeking to share the gospel with those around me and in the neighbourhood.
  • Sometimes I will mention the questioning and wrestling with faith in university and beyond as I seek to understand God in the midst of the broken aspects of my life.

All these things are true.

And all these things can be shared in the expected five minutes or less or paragraph on an application.

But I’ve never been satisfied with any answer that I have given. It seems so disingenuous. Part of this is because so much of my faith journey is intertwined with my healing journey that it’s really hard to separate the two. And, I’m not convinced that all stories are appropriate for interviews or first encounters.

I’ve been dwelling on this lately. And something came to me.

This isn’t just a struggle with what is appropriate to share. It’s a struggle with two very different testimonies.

The first one – and the one that I usually share – is about what *I* have done. I decided to be baptized. I discovered Scripture. I wrestled with God. I pursued theological studies.

But as the days and years go on, I realized that my faith story is not so much what I have done, but what God has done in me. When I think about my faith development and healing, I recognize that there are things that I have done that have contributed to where I am. But healing has only come from God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. When I think about any of the moments that were significant in my faith journey – the really meaty part of my story – I could not have orchestrated those moments. Sometimes God worked through people. But the deepest, most meaningful moments that have had a lasting impact on who I am and my desire to follow God have caught me by surprise, often coming in moments when I am at the weakest for perhaps the same reasons Paul claims he cannot boast about his own life.

And so, I think the way that I have approached interview or casual questions about my faith journey are flawed. I recognize that I am where I am at only by the grace of God and yet answer as if I have achieved this on my own – or, if generous – that God saved me through the cross, but my faith is my recognition, my response and my doing.

In your love my salvation lies

Image

I had a dream that I stood beneath an orange sky

with my brother standing by

I said “Brother you know I know

It’s been a long road we’ve been walking on.”

I had a dream that I stood beneath an orange sky

with my sister standing by

I said, “here is what i know now sister”

 

In Your love, my salvation lies

In Your love, my salvation lies

– Orange Sky by Alexi Murdoch

I’ve been working hard on my paper (it’s almost done! I should have a draft done before I end the night and I think it’s a pretty good paper so hopefully there won’t be too much editing to do). My focus in the paper is the necessity of silence that monastic communities preserve for ministry today, especially in a world of distractions and constant noise. I was reflecting on the passage where Christ is baptized and named by God as His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. I noticed that this passage came directly before Christ went into the desert to be tempted by the evil one. It seems to me that Christ knew in a very deep way God’s love and that this love enabled him to resist the evil one and prepare for ministry.

Today I’ve had the attention span of a gnat. I think this comes from having a billion things on my mind and wanting to sort everything out this very moment. This morning, in conversation with my psychiatrist, and then spending the rest of the day reflecting on all that has happened in the past week, I came to a sense of peace and strength in figuring out a direction for my life. I am super excited about this and even more excited that I’m finally on a path where my dreams could become reality. I’ve been slowly coming to realize over the past few months that a Masters of Divinity is not going to prepare me for the kind of work I feel called to do. But I have some hurdles to overcome. My academic life has not been ‘normal’. Due to circumstances, it took me 9 years to complete my undergraduate degree. My marks are all over the map – they make sense when you consider the abuse was still happening during my first three years of university and that I was taking a full course load at the time of the trial. By fluke, I was able to start my masters while trying to complete my undergraduate degree. While I’ve had excellent marks, I’ve started and stopped courses a couple of times. So I was easily distracted today trying find ways to make my goals reality – another new thing for me is that I now believe that if I am pursuing what God wants me to pursue and if I am determined, then somehow there is a way.

Anyways, a roundabout way of saying that I’ve been pretty distracted from my paper. In thinking through the passage I mentioned and about my healing journey, I was also reflecting today on how God’s love in my life has been powerful for change. I landed myself in the hospital earlier this year and made some pretty bad choices, hitting rock bottom in many ways. And to my surprise, met God there. Actually, I remember two days of having my life flash before my eyes with knowledge beyond any doubt that God was watching this ‘video’ with me. He saw all my ugliness and brokenness. And He remained with me. Reminds me of the song ‘Everything’ by Alanis Morisette:

You see everything, you see every part. You see all my life and you love my dark. You digg everything of which I am ashamed… and you’re still here.

God saw me. And he never left me. But more than that – He loved me and loves me – just as I was in that moment and just as I am. There is nothing I could do to change His love for me. I remember sitting in the hospital cafeteria one day listening to music and reflecting on that time in my life and just feeling God’s amazing love poured out upon me.

It is that love that has changed my life. It is that love that inspires me. It is that love that has brought me to the point of where I am. Believe me, I do not deserve this kind of love. But God loves me.

In God’s love, my salvation lies. Thanks be to God.