What's your story? -- The Gift of Giving Your Testimony
In the Lutheran tradition, we don’t use the word, “testimony,” often. One reason for this might be that we don’t leave a lot of room in traditional Lutheran settings to give testimonials, or publicly tell our faith stories. Or maybe it’s because this word has taken on a specific meaning in the wider church. The idea of giving one’s testimony possibly evokes memories of forced alter calls, or obligatory sharing that could have made you uncomfortable. I pray that's not the case. My hope is that we can reclaim this word together to enrich our faith and explore how sharing our testimonies can bring the love of God to life.
Matthew 5:14-16 says, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
Testimonies are this light we get to share. They are the stories of the Spirit in action—sounds similar to this St. Andrew community doesn’t it? Through these stories, we hear and come to understand how the Holy Spirit is actively working in the lives of ourselves and our beloved siblings in Christ. Theologian Pheobe Palmer says that the practice of telling our testimonies is an indispensable aspect of Christian faith because it is formative, and life giving.
Some of you might be thinking, "my faith story is way too messy." I'm here to tell you, you are not alone! Everyone has their own unique and messy journey and you can tell yours however you feel. It can be spontaneous, formal or informal, spoken or written, you name it. Your faith story is yours to tell exactly how the Spirit moves you to. All you have to do is find where to start.
And you don't do this alone. In the book Saying is Believing, by Amanda Drury, she says everyone has a spiritual story and it’s our communities that help us tell it. She says,
“My community helps train my eyes to see where God is at work in my life. My community helps supply my mouth with language to narrate these experiences. And my community provides me with a framework in which I might interpret these experiences… A person talking aloud in a room alone is not testifying; they are simple talking aloud in a room… Those who hear the testimony receive it.”
Although we rightly emphasize that telling our own story is important, this quote reminds me that it is just as important to listen to, and receive, the spiritual stories of others.
When is the last time that we, as individuals, asked someone to share their story with us? Maybe over coffee, or maybe in a more formal setting. “What’s your story?” Or maybe it starts a little simpler than that. Maybe we ask,
“What are you curious about?”
“Who is someone that has significantly made a difference in your life?”
“What is bringing you joy?”
“What’s your favorite Bible verse and why?”
“How are you experiencing God, today?”
It’s questions like these that deepen our relationships with one another and help tell the stories of the Holy Spirit. So, I challenge you to ask someone one of these questions today.
Let us pray: Lord, we give thanks for the chance to share stories and for each unique and beautiful story you embolden us to tell. Put us in communities that affirm us on our journeys of faith and walk with us daily. Amen.