I remember early on as a Christian, when under the guidance of Campus Crusade, I was supposed to write out my testimony and create a “two-minute” version. My coming to faith in Christ was one of those treasured stories because most surrounding me were raised Christian and thus involved some conversion story around the time they learned their ABCs. While testimonies of people coming to Christ later in life can be powerful and are good, a la the Prodigal Son, they should not be overemphasized. The problem is, when you become a Christian later in life, people love your testimony so much that THAT moment becomes more important than the need to come to Christ every day. New Christians in older bodies often have a crash later when every day Christianity begins to be measured by THAT day.
The long and short of it is my parents took me to church, dumped me off in the youth or kids stuff. I went infrequently and to whatever church went with whatever parent had custody that weekend. At about 12 or 13, I told my Dad to stop bother taking a kid who didn’t believe to church, which he reluctantly obliged. I essentially grew up a functional atheist which I finally declared was reality in 1998 while in college. I was in the middle of a fraternity. I was heavily involved in leadership. Then we had a big party, Animal Houses style, got busted and I got really bitter (I was already). I was nicknamed a founding father of the “a**hole club” because I was such a jerk and reviled in telling people how it was. I realized my iniquity and exactly a year after declaring my athiesm while on a Greek leadership retreat at a YMCA, I bumped into an old high school friend who was at that YMCA for some weird club called “Campus Crusade for Christ.” The words lumped together didn’t even make sense. Well, the following summer I joined a study on Philippians she led in search for “peace” and a solution to my “a**hole” problem. One night in August 1999, I prayed Jesus would “change my heart.” Holy c**p did he ever. It was a 180 degree turn and beginning that school year my entire fraternity wanted to know where the “a**hole” went, and who was this guy now before them.
While such a story got press in Campus Crusade and had a brief run at the fraternity, over time I found many non-Christian friends had heard so many “I was a terrible… and then I found Jesus and everything was better…” stories it had little effect. Because they saw the reality of the struggle in life that unfolds after THAT moment. Then, I went to work and had a whole new crowd of skeptical engineers. Something funny happened though, I had a co-worker who grilled me all the time. He grew up catholic, read Aquinas, was a history major, etc. I would try to have intellectual debates and he would say, “Your getting better.” as if my logic was improving but the content didn’t matter. One night he was grilling me some more after work, I through reason out the window and essentially told my story of wrestling after becoming a Christian to follow God. I would get jacked up, then fall back. I will feel God’s call on my life and then resist him and fight with him. It went on for years and continued while in Seminary. I concluded with him, “I tried to runaway from God and I couldn’t. Then I read Jeremiah 20:9,
‘But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.'”
I talked about Pascal a bit and his famous quote, “The heart has its reasons which reason knows not.” and he was impacted. He began reading Pascal. Crazy. Over the years the debates continued, he and his wife struggled with infertility and I coworker and I prayed God would grant them kids. He did and they got two. He has told me frequently sense, “I am not that against religion as I used to be.”
It still baffles me that a story of struggle, rather than one of victory, impressed him the most. I preached recently that most “heroes” of the faith did not have super-human quantities of faith. They struggled and wrestled with God. In that their faith was revealed. I totally believe THAT moment is a powerful witness. But let us not neglect the ongoing testimony of a life of faith, that is not always sure where it is going, or that their will be victory. But presses on because THE MOMENT in history, Jesus Christ death and resurrection, is “fire in their bones,” which we struggle to appropriate more each day until THE Resurrection will come and we will finally rest.