A year and a half ago I began to write my current testimony. I never posted it, because I thought it was unfinished. I found it the other day and can’t think what more there was to write. It expresses my feelings from that moment nearly perfectly. And I hope it also brings glory to God. This is my testimony.
It’s been years since I’ve finished a song. Probably about as long since I wrote out my testimony. They seem to go hand in hand, so I suppose that’s fitting. I once heard a sermon in which we were encouraged to have a current testimony of what God has done in our lives, not just the “When I was saved, forty years ago…” version. And so, what you are about to read, I have been compelled to write.
Nearly three years ago, I moved to Southern California, following dreams I believed were from God. I am omitting details, only because I fear they may still harm people I love, but three months after the move, everything began to fall apart. Health problems arose, relationships deteriorated, ministry failed, I even lost the will to continue my education. And everyone told me to go home. I tried to follow God here, but things didn’t work out, so I must not have heard God correctly. I was even told by a pastor that God had always blessed him as long as he was in God’s will, implying that I was not in God’s will, and thus receiving my just reward. But I stayed anyway. I believed that my actions had been in line with God’s will, and that God could restore what was broken, and replace what was lost. And because God could, and because it was his will, and because he loved me, I believed that he would fix everything and work miracles in my life so everyone who doubted my God would see his greatness and be in awe of his power.
The next year was a nightmare. I lived on faith, learning to pretend for the people who needed everything to be okay, but real in my belief that God would deliver me. But I also needed to live on food and sleep, and they were lacking. I dropped 20 pounds in about a month, wore heavier makeup in the hopes that it would hide my tears, served harder to make up for my feelings of incompetence (and in hopes of making the people who rejected me rethink their decision by proving myself to be more valuable), and tried to distract myself from the pain while waiting for God to fix everything. One of the older, wiser generation tried to tell me that God didn’t bring me here for the reasons I thought. I heard him, but I didn’t really hear. At a healing service, someone else told me that God hadn’t forgotten me. Wasn’t that confirmation of what I had been saying?
I learned valuable lessons in forgiveness and reconciliation, and looked forward to the opportunity to be able to demonstrate love again toward those who had hurt me, but the situation only grew worse. And God did what he always does. He sent other people to carry me, to pray for me, to encourage me, listen to my breaking heart. He provided a church that was a safe place to come and cry and begin to heal, and to begin serving God again. But I still wondered what was all this for, why did God want me here?
And God asked me to do several things. First, I needed to be involved with the church again, so I started playing guitar for worship and preaching to seniors at a convalescent home. I was being useful but being stretched, as neither were my comfort zone or the type of ministry I had seen myself doing. God also asked me to write letters to the four people who had hurt me the most in my life, asking forgiveness for my part in the problem. I fought him for a short time, as the request seemed terribly unfair, but he won as always and in the end I obeyed. Two responded kindly, though not understanding. Two did not respond. It is a terrible thing to wake up knowing you have not been forgiven, especially when you believe you have forgiven the greater part. I know that God’s heart is reconciliation for all people, and maybe I got to experience a little of how he feels.
All my life I have insisted that God doesn’t waste anything. These words have come to haunt me. But I still believe them. Maybe this experience has made me more honest. Life doesn’t always go as planned. It doesn’t always go the way we think it should. God doesn’t always do what we want or think he should. That doesn’t mean he’s not doing anything. I have grown more comfortable with the not knowing. I think God is okay with my questions. And I never stopped asking him. I believed God, but was completely lost in places. One of my professors commented on how the psalmists lived in that tension between what they believed about God and what they saw around them. And it’s very uncomfortable. I can definitely relate to that.
On my birthday last year, I even saved the paper from my fortune cookie and dared God to make it come true. It said, “You will have full contentment by summer’s end.” All I was hearing from God was hard, things I needed to do, or give up, or change. But I knew I had been faithful, that my entire life had been given to him. And I was far from content. Paul said he had learned to be content in all circumstances. I was mad at Paul too. But I continued, serving God, doing what I was supposed to do, working to pay the bills. Where was the abundant life he had promised?
Summer came and went, and at the end of August I received an email from a Fuller student asking if I was interested in an internship. For reasons God only knows, I responded. It’s been a whirlwind since that day. I visited the church two weeks later, and laugh as I remember Pastor Jason asking what I thought before the service had even started. Of course, the joke was on me. As soon as worship began, I knew the answer. And I heard God speak. “I can bring you back to life here.” Was that him daring me to believe it? The English ministry of a Korean church that hopes to become a multi-ethnic church plant. The courage and faith to invite a non-Korean to be on staff. Yes, I am most definitely in.
And healing finally came. I was chosen. Never did I feel that I had to prove myself or earn my way. And they didn’t change their minds after getting to know me, something that I was always a little afraid of. Debbie told me once that God moves through his chosen, and I think being chosen has changed my service, making me free to risk. I was given the title pastor, which surprised me as I had learned to bury that dream, and release it as unimportant. I have experienced the thrill of leading and seeing God use me in ways that I hadn’t dreamed of. I have been loved and accepted in some of my lowest moments, and given a glimpse from real people of how God sees me, of how God loves me.