My Testimonial For God

I won’t say that my story is exceptionally well-written. I won’t say that you will completely relate to it. I won’t say that you’ll like it. But I will make my every effort to put meaning into the events that have made me into who I am today.

Everyone has a life story. A life story well-told is often made up or made into a movie. It often takes the form of a good book. Not everyone’s life story becomes a literary masterpiece- but God knows them all by heart. Everyone’s life story is different, though they have the same themes intertwined in them. A testimony is also a story, a life story with a Christian spin on it. I suppose I haven’t really shared my testimony before. I suppose now is as good a time as any. 

If you read my blog avidly (I don’t think anyone falls into that category), then you would know that I am pretty nostalgic. I miss my early childhood. I may even carelessly refer to those years as “the best of my life.” I came into this world floating on a pleasant, idyllic cloud of bliss. Everything seemed so beautiful back then. Everything was so magical. Just remembering now almost brings tears to my eyes. 

I don’t think I could be more nostalgic.

I had loving parents and a stable home. I lived in a safe neighborhood. I went to school and did nothing but play. My teachers believed in learning through play. They were hippies.

I had lots of friends. I had my imagination. I had lots of good times. But God was not in the picture.

Then, something changed. I was eight years old at the time. I don’t think there’s anyone in the world who can understand this part. If I tell people, they think I’m just crazy, if not worse. And they’re right.

I lost my innocence. I don’t know exactly how it happened. No one beat me. No one raped me. No one humiliated me on Facebook. No one stuffed me in a trashcan. No one told me where babies came from. No one offered me a drink or a hit of a joint. Do you get the picture? Nothing major happened. Except this- my family moved to a new state.

That’s all. It was hard to make friends. It was a  different culture. I missed my birth-state, California. And somehow, I learned that the world was something very different from what I’d always thought it was. It became harder to see the beauty in every little thing. I became depressed, borderline suicidal, and confused in every possible way. But I didn’t go to a shrink, I just held on. 

A year later, I moved back to California. Slowly, I started to feel better. And then I started going to a Christian school. They told me that Jesus forgave my sins. And I believed them. But what the next step was, I couldn’t imagine.

Middle school was a roller coaster for me. Once again, it was hard to make friends. And I was having some troubles at home too. No, no one beat me. But I’m pretty sure that there was one week of my life that everyone hated me. Or at least, it really, really seemed that way. But suicide was out of the question. I’d learned in Bible class that suicide was a sin. I learned many other things too. Slowly, gradually, I accepted Christ into my heart. Things were never quite the same after that. From then on, I knew I had a purpose. I knew that I wasn’t a mistake of evolution. I knew that I had to keep going. 

But, as you can imagine, it’s not like things got way better for me. It’s not like I was really a much better person. I remember doing and saying some pretty awful and mean things. I probably stopped doing this a little by junior year, when I finally realized that I was supposed to be loving my neighbor, as well as my enemies.

There were good times. There were moments that I felt like I fit in. But a lot of what I remember is pain, pain that I largely inflicted on myself. 

“Look at everyone else. Everyone else is having fun. Everyone else has friends. No one is awkward like you. There’s something wrong with you. No one likes you. No- that’s not true. People like you. But in spite of the fact that you’re strange and awkward. That’s right, you’re awkward. And you’re strange. You might as well be from another planet. Just look at you. But look, you can change. You need to get a life, go out, stop being so pathetic. You’ve got to have your time in the sun.”

That’s how I thought. I’m not proud of it, but that’s how I thought. I think jealousy is a terrible, ugly thing. I don’t know why I expend energy indulging in it. I should have been thinking more along these lines:

“Good for everyone else! But what’s there to complain about? I have everything I need. If God thought I really needed a social life now, he would have given it to me. I guess He is building my character. You can’t have it all, anyway. And I have some pretty important things to be doing, like writing. So I just don’t have much time.”

And to be honest, I had some good thoughts like that, even though I forced them on myself. And yet the negative ones kept reappearing.

And that’s not all. I wanted a car too. I thought a car would lead to a social life. I remember when getting my license seemed like the most important and coveted thing in the world. Man, it seems so stupid now. By the end of senior year, I was cruising along in one. It got me from point A to point B just fine. But it didn’t get me to cloud 9. I can’t believe I had such high expectations anyway.

Senior year especially, I started to get serious about my faith. I realized by then that I needed to really dedicate my life to Christ. But at the same time, as you can see, my “heart was not pure.” I was chasing after worldly pursuits, and I was trying to follow God too. I was trying to achieve the impossible. To be honest, I wanted it all. I wanted the status symbols, I wanted the friends, the grades, the writing career, another career. I think I even wanted to be an actor at one time. I wanted these things, at least in part, just for my own glorification. Can you imagine that? And I also wanted to be one of those Christians who would renounce all their possessions. I wanted to be fired up for Christ, not indifferent, not merely a kid from a Christian school who follows the crowd. I wanted to be different. I wanted to deny myself. But another part of me wanted to indulge myself. So I was- and still am- being pulled in all these different directions.

Then college came around. I thought my life was really going to get better. I thought a fresh start was just what I needed. I thought I would stop doing and saying stupid things.

I didn’t make tons of friends like everyone assured me I would. I am still feeling out of place. At times, the secular spin does make me question my faith. 

I wish that I have a tidy ending to put here. I wish I could say, “And I lived happily ever after. I was never discontent or unfaithful ever again.”

Or, better yet, “Even though my priorities were straight, and I really just wanted to just love on others and make disciples rather than party-buddies and a place for myself in society, God blessed me with a tight-knit group of friends anyway who continually encourage me to stand up for my faith. Oh, and by the way, I have a fantastic boyfriend too. I know, I never thought it would happen to me! Well, I couldn’t be happier. Thank you Jesus, for all the incredible blessings you have bestowed me. I will do all I can to use them according to Your will and do everything you have preordained for me. Well, see you in heaven, until then, everything is just dandy!”

But even though my journey is still in progress, even though I constantly fall back into sin, even though I still crave things that are not good for me, even though I still have bad thoughts and sin constantly… I have hope. I have hope for an abundant life. I have hope that one day, I will seize my opportunity to serve Christ wholeheartedly and never look back. I have hope that, if not on earth, at least in heaven I will be given a new body and new mind, cleared of all mental illness/anxiety. I have hope that someday I will connect with someone. Maybe I’ll never even be someone’s bridesmaid, let alone get married myself- but I pray that one day I will lead a fellow human being to Christ. And that would be the greatest honor of all. I have hope that someday I will help someone, make a difference in their life. I have hope that maybe I will write something worth reading and believing. If it is in God’s will. The all-important caveat to most of what I just said.

So maybe my life story will never be turned into a movie. It would be foolish and prideful to imagine myself being famous (although, embarrassing as it is to admit, I do it all the time because it makes me feel better about present circumstances). But the good news is that I am alive right now, and that Christ is willing to live in me. He is willing to retake the soul that I defiled and purify it, filling it with good and helpful things. He is willing to dwell in me. He is willing to dwell in you. And I think that is a beautiful thought. I think that was missing from my childhood.

So the journey continues. Thanks God, it’s been an interesting ride. I guess I wouldn’t change a thing.

Well, maybe I could have done without some of that sin.

But we can’t go back in time anyway, can we?

We only have today. 

 

 

 

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There Have Been Better Days

Ever had one of those days when it seems like the entire world and everything in it is conspiring to exclude, demoralize, and humiliate you?

Ever have one of those days when all people seem greedy, ugly, and very difficult, if not impossible, to love? And you are the worst of the bunch? 

When awkwardness abounds?

When anger and jealousy take hold? 

When you don’t understand why you’re living?

When the Bible seems uncertain and God distant?

When every pursuit seems tedious, vain, and painful? When there’s no one who will understand?

When you want to tough it out and cry it out at the same time? When you wish someone would notice that you’re not okay? 

Never had a day like that?

Neither have I…

 

Well, at least golf is starting to make sense. At least I got to eat some noodles. At least the day is almost over. 

You know what sounds good right now? Besides drowning the cares of the day with some kind of drug? To just lie in someone’s arms. Maybe Jesus’ arms. That sounds nice. Just like a helpless, thoughtless, little lamb. Warm, sleepy, peaceful, a lullaby being sung by angels. 

“No more tears and no more fears.

No more pain and no more rain

Never be lonely never be sad

Never be angry never be bad

Just singing songs to God above

Peace joy love, peace joy love.”

It sounds nice when the angels sing it, if not in your head.

 

 

Celebrating Small Victories

Sometimes, it’s hard to think of things to be thankful for. It’s hard to acknowledge favorable circumstances as divine blessings rather than the machinations of the world. And yet, that’s what they are. We are owed nothing in this world, and yes, we can’t take anything with us either. 

The Bible says, paraphrased, ask and you will receive (Matthew 7:7). Yet I don’t know if that is completely literal. I think it doesn’t necessarily refer to asking for anything that we want and getting it. If I ask for a Ferrari, will it just fall from the sky? I don’t really think so. I am inclined to think that it means that we will get what God wants us to have and what is really good for us. Even if it takes a lot of time.

Well, anyway, sometimes my prayers are answered. Here is an example. There was this one girl in my discussion class that I kind of wanted to talk to. I prayed/ casually asked God  that I would have the chance to talk to her. I just felt some kind of connection to this person, and like maybe, possibly, I could help her spiritually (if God wills it). I know it sounds weird. And I did talk to her, after a few awkward encounters. I saw her twice by coincidence, and she sat near me twice in the huge lecture hall. Is that really just coincidence? I don’t think so. So maybe it’s hard to explain the situation to you. Maybe it just sounds creepy that I prayed to be able to talk to someone. It is hard to get to talk to people sometimes in such a big university, and well, I’m not much of a conversationalist anyway. Judge me if you want. So finally, after all these chance meetings, I finally did engage in a real conversation with her, as we happened to be walking in the same direction at the same rate after class. I mean, only had to walk a tiny bit faster to catch up. Is that really just stalking? But I know and God knows that He had a hand in it. 

Well, I don’t know what you think about it. The point is that I got to talk to someone at school, which actually doesn’t happen to me everyday, besides just business. And here are some other blessings: I am still kind of healthy even though I felt a bit under the weather yesterday, my book is coming along (sort of), and I had two casual Bible studies with this girl from a student org. So yes, things could be far, far, far worse. That is a pessimist’s way of saying, “Hey, I guess I’m content.” Well, I suppose being content is a step in the right direction. 

 

I Don’t Remember the 60’s

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I don’t remember the 60’s because I wasn’t there. But I do remember when oldies stations played a lot of 60’s music. Over here, they play a lot of 80’s now. I know- no one cares. But don’t worry, I have a point to this. 

I remember sitting in the backseat of a Ford F150 for long periods of time, listening to the Beatles without even knowing it, or listening to “Can’t Hurry Love” and thinking it was, “Cater-Rhythm.” Don’t ask me how i heard that. I didn’t know what it was- but it was music, and it made me happy. And I would eat chicken McNuggets because no one ever told me that they were unhealthy (if not worse), and drink coke without worrying about diabetes or osteoporosis. 

I remember climbing things, and falling down and scraping my knees or my belly. I remember crying over a broken pencil. Maybe that’s why I became a writer. I remember toy phones and Legos, and dolls. I remember not knowing a single thing about life. Sometimes I feel as if I would give anything to go back to those days. Kind of like the song “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder. I probably heard that when I was a kid too, but just didn’t know what it meant. 

And yet, it’s foolish of me to be so nostalgic. Because when I was a kid, I didn’t know Jesus. No one ever told me I was a sinner and that I needed to dedicate my life to the Gospel. Even in my innocence, I was dead to sin, and I didn’t even know it. Why is that a good thing? 

 I guess I miss my childhood because I’m not happy with the here and now. I guess my childhood was the last time that I didn’t feel lonely in one way or another. But why should I feel lonely now? Isn’t God more valuable than a boyfriend, or a million friends, or acceptance from society, or a combination of the three? Why do I feel lonely? 

Now I sit in my car by myself and listen to the 60’s station on satellite radio. But it’s not the same, because now I understand the songs. It’s not the same, because it can never be the same again. But that’s okay. 

Sometimes, I wonder if good memories are a gift from God. Maybe they are. Bad memories are helpful too. Our memories are what made us who we are today. They are the greatest lessons ever created. So I suppose that even if I didn’t know God as a child, it’s not like all those years were in vain. I learned things, and am still learning things from the past. I suppose I’m just afraid to apply them to my life today. If I applied all the things I’ve ever learned, I would probably be happy today. Please God, help me to stop living in the past or in a future that only exists in my imagination!

 

 

Photo Credit: sodahead.com

 

 

 

 

The Heroism of Suffering

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Surprisingly, I have never been injured before, besides the usual boo-boos that I got while riding scooters and climbing stuff as a kid. I have been sick a good amount of times, but I suppose that is another post for another day. 

And yet, there are people everywhere who are suffering from injuries, handicaps, and disease. Many of these are the real-life heroes, the mild, optimistic, contented angels lying in hospital beds. They inadvertently teach other people important life lessons and/or make them feel like total jerks in comparison. 

I will be honest, I have had fantasies related to this. I have imagined the scenario of getting some kind of deadly illness or serious injury, only so I can lie on my deathbed and be a perfect saint about it. I know it’s pretty stupid of me, if not something else. Call me a coward, but sometimes I dream of being set free from the cares of this world and “peacing out” in a way that makes up for all the wrong I’ve done. And yes, it would be nice if people thought about me and missed me. Sometimes, it seems like death is the only way to achieve that. 

As a much less extreme, but still a good example, I met someone the other day who was on crutches. We were the only two who showed up to Bible study. We talked for a while and started to get along. Eventually, I sensed that it would be somewhat appropriate/hopefully-not-offensive to ask her how she got injured, since it was a recent thing from what I heard. She laughed and said that she “didn’t mind” and began relating this story about trampolines. She mentioned a sprain, but she also used the word “fun” several times in her explanation. 

Long afterwards, I realized something. “I think I forgot to pity her! Oh no, I don’t really remember expressing my pity!”

Of course, one lens through which to view this situation is just that I am a bad person. Okay, so you may have a point there. But there is another way. You see, she didn’t give me much opportunity to express my pity. She was talking about how fun it was a lot of the time. And since maybe I had expected something a little more serious, I found myself being glad that she didn’t break something. So yes, I could have interjected some more sympathy, but she didn’t give me much chance. Somehow, she changed the subject, turning it back to me. I think that a few breaths after we talked about her injury, she was sympathizing with my situation as a commuter (context: someone who drive or takes the bus to college) and inviting me to something. How did that even happen?

What she did is something that is not easy to do. What she did was pass up an opportunity to garner sympathy. And what’s more, she tried to help me out instead. That right there is Christian character. That is humility, resilience, kindness.

So there is a simple, everyday example that doesn’t involve melodrama. And it helps me to illustrate my point. You don’t have to be on your deathbed to be a saint. You don’t need to die to be appreciated and set free from the cares of this world. You just have to love God, live for God.

I hope that I can take a page from this girl’s book. I hope that I will pass up opportunities to garner sympathy. I too want to look in the face of life and say, “Are those all the lemons you got? Really man?” I want to undermine my own struggles to the point where people don’t even notice them. I don’t want to complain, but I want to lift up my cross and endure until the bittersweet end. 

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 NRSV

 

 

 

 

photo credit: irishcentral.com

 

 

My Blog- A Cozy Little Niche in the Chaos of the World

Is it weird that I feel so comfortable online, where my every keystroke is recorded and possibly monitored by Big Brother, to be used against me in the future? Yet I refuse to believe it sometimes. This blog is like a sanctuary for my mind. It’s an oasis in the desert. 

Maybe I’m exaggerating a little. But it is pretty serene compared to other aspects of my life. Not that I necessarily lead an unusually busy or hectic life. I am referring to the needless anxiety that I constantly face, anxiety that is purely caused by my brain’s tendency to move at a hundred miles an hour towards a dead end. Anxiety that makes it hard to socialize, drive a car, do things that most people wouldn’t even think twice about. Anxiety that makes it hard to trust God and enjoy the ride.

So basically, I’m crazy. Basically, I fear that God doesn’t want me. I fear that I don’t want God. Well, I fear a whole bunch of things, but that is probably what it all boils down to. 

And yet, here on my blog, I can just unwind, say what’s on my mind, talk about my day. Maybe not the place to unearth all the skeletons in my closet and go on full-scale, unbridled rants. Though that may be tempting at times. It is a place where I can talk about God without being given dirty looks or feeling like a hypocrite. On one hand, it’s a good thing because, optimistically, I imagine that I am helping to further the Kingdom. On the other, sometimes I feel like I’m just hiding behind my words. I’m trying to be someone that I can’t live up to in real life. I’ve created some kind of alter ego that is more eloquent, more righteous, more… well, lovable than the real me. I wonder why blog-me can’t be real-me. I wonder why I feel a surprising amount of validation and support on this blog, but in real life, I feel as if the whole world is plotting to exclude me. I often struggle to muster the courage to talk to people and be myself. Because it seems that when I do have the courage, I don’t have the right words. And yet, isn’t it better to have talked and failed  than to never have talked at all? I don’t know. 

Well, I suppose here is where I can get tripped up. The question is not “What-Would-Underground-Voices Do?” It is “What would Jesus do?” Yes, that is the question. Maybe that is why I like writing, because at least I can’t see your reaction to my bumper sticker quotes. 

Well, that’s my thought for the day. Thanks for reading, you don’t know how much it means to me.