day 70: a speech i got to give: my testimony.
today i had the opportunity to share pieces of my lifelong journey with Christ with a few of my classmates. i do not particularly love public speaking, but at the same time it is an area and ability that i would like to grow in. and as i learned in tonight’s soccer match, you can not get good at something unless you do it over and over again. at least that is what i have found in my own life.
anyways, i figured today i would just post the manuscript from that speech. in hindsight, there are changes i would make. and as a disclaimer, i had to condense the approx. 13 million minutes that i have been alive into approx. 6 mins. needless to say, there are elements of my story that i did not have time to share today.
my [six minute] story:
“Being a Christian is easy. Following Christ is hard.
This is a lesson that I have been learning ever since I was a boy.
I was a good boy, in the sense that I never cussed at my brothers, i never lied to my teachers, and i rarely gave my parents any headaches.
I went to church every Sunday, read my Bible every day, and prayed before all of my meals.
I was a good boy.
I grew up with Jesus. we were tight, and we were always looking out for each other. He kept me out of mischief and gave me a good name amongst my peers, and in return I honored him by helping my mom do the dishes and by telling my friends that I would pray for them.
but i was a Christian only because I was surrounded by Christianity. Because my parents were.
the truth is, i was friends with Christ for selfish reasons; because He gave me street cred.
i remember inviting Jesus into my heart nearly every week, just to be safe. what i had not realized in my younger years though was that, while i was praying for Him to come into my life -for my sake - Christ was inviting me into life with Him -for His sake.
when i was eighteen years old i was visiting a friend’s church on a Sunday morning. during their service the Pastor invited everyone in the congregation to pray a specific prayer - “Father, break my heart for what breaks yours.” it sounded legit; like a prayer i ought to have prayed if i was supposed to be a Christian. so i prayed it. “Father, break my heart for what breaks yours.” i had no idea what that prayer would mean for my life over the course of the following year.
the summer i turned nineteen, my parent’s divorced, deserting one another, and disowning the Christ they claimed to follow - ouch. my heart was broken.
one month later, my best friend was killed in a car accident - ouch. “what the heck God?”. my heart was broken.
that fall, upon returning to college, i spent my weekends traveling to youth groups, playing music and hanging out with teens. it seemed that everywhere i went the Lord was putting into my path teens who were wrestling with the very things i was at the time journeying through.
teens would often approach me with a request for prayer or advice.
“Steve, will you pray for me. my parents are getting divorced.”
“Steve, my friend just died in a skiing accident and I’m just not sure where God is. will you pray for me?”
though my heart had been broken by the recent events in my own life - a broken family, and a buried friend - the Lord used that broken heart to speak His love into the broken hearts of these teens.
ten months later i found myself in the middle of a an Internally Displaced People’s camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo weeping over the living conditions forced upon people who did nothing to deserve the stench of poverty that surrounded them. my heart was broken.
i cried and i laughed as i sang songs about the love of Jesus with orphans and widows who had lost everything to their name as a result of a civil war. through my interactions with these beautiful Congolese refugees i was able to share my Christian journey with them, and they were able to share their Christian journeys with me.
i began to realize in that year that my relationship with Christ was never meant to be personal; it was never intended that He and i live our relationship out privately, but that He and i use our relationship to bring hope and life to a world that suffers from hopelessness and lifelessness.
a friend of mine recently reminded me that “Once a relationship becomes between two people it becomes unhealthy.” I believe the same goes with our relationships with Christ. Once it becomes solely about Him and i, it becomes unhealthy.
if it had not been for the Christian brothers and sisters that i was surrounded by in that year, i’m not sure how firm my faith would be today. because of their graciousness with me as i wrestled with what it means for the Lord to be sovereign in the midst of heartache, my faith was made stronger. those peers reached out to me, just as Christ reached out to the lost in his day, and pointed me in the direction of the Father.
God gave me - and gives us - a Christian community, and i believe through that community He saved me - and saves us.
The Christianity i grew up in had merely served me. now the LORD was teaching me that His version of Christianity was much bigger than that. Being a Christian, as it turns out, is not about what we can get from Christ - a good rapport amongst our peers or stickers on our church’s attendance charts - instead, rather, being a Christian is about reaching out to those who are broken - realizing that we ourselves are broken - and sharing this Love and Hope that has been granted to us.
Sometimes, i have learned, following Christ entails having a broken heart.
It is when our hearts are broken for the things that break His heart that the Lord invites us into the proclamation of a Kingdom where broken hearts are mended, and lives are made new.
Being a Christian is easy. Following Christ is hard. Sometimes, if we surrender it, the LORD will break our hearts. that’s the hard part. But the good news is that our broken hearts are not the end. The LORD, if we are willing, will use our brokenness for mending the brokenness around us.
And not only does God gives us community to heal our broken hearts. God gives us broken hearts to heal our communities.
The truth is, my heart is still broken. and it breaks a little more every day as i get to know our Father more and more. but rather than focussing on my broken heart, i’m focussing on what the Lord want to do with it.
though it’s a scary prayer at times, i’m still praying it every day - “Father, break my heart for what breaks yours.”
… and then i said ‘thanks’ and accidentally gave a peace sign to the class - a sign of my nervousness i suppose….