Adorning Testimonies

A few times in my seminary experience, I have found myself in the midst of people sharing testimonies. This is always a bit uncomfortable for me, not because I discount the validity of others’ experiences of God, but rather I think we have the tendency to embellish our testimonies to make them sound better. We decorate our testimonies by making our original situation (the state before being “saved”) sound much worse than it actually was. Then, we put God into the picture and because our situation was so terrible before, God comes out looking like a superman/woman. The reality of it though is that for most of us attending seminary, our backgrounds have been, well, easy. Many of us grew up in the church, had loving parents, good support systems, food, clothing, houses, beds, air conditioning, heating, schools . . . we essentially had everything that we needed to not only survive, but thrive. But we still tend to stretch the circumstances of our testimonies to portray God as more powerful when the only thing that has changed is the state of our heart. Many of the testimonies I am referring to involve a spiritual salvation, not a physical one. I concede that salvation in the world to come is much richer than the salvation we experience here on earth. However, I am not a proponent of making our situations sound worse than they are in order to portray God as more majestic. Once again, I realize that testimonies are subjective experiences, in which it is difficult to enter into the being of another to feel what they felt. But I do know that we arrange and tell testimonies to persuade and because of that, we make the product sound good. Really good. I remember sharing my testimony on several occasions in high school; I was guilty of the very things I now find repelling. I painted my situation as hell when in comparison to many people, it was anything but hell.

This is all to say that I wish testimonies were a bit more honest. That we would reflect on our situations in light of those who are oppressed, in light of those who did not grow up as privileged as us. Maybe life wasn’t so bad. God did save us, but not from the things we thought God did.

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