I have two testimonies to tell, a lesser and a greater. The lesser is less dramatic, not that it’s had less impact on my life. I’ll tell the lesser first.
I’m the youngest in my family, the youngest of six. This is crucial. As a little kid I was lovely and gullible, so these siblings of mine ended up teaching me a whole bunch of lessons…usually the hard way. They persuaded me into things, and tricked me into things, and generally taught me a lot. But what I can really thank them for is driving me towards God. How, when they don’t believe?
Well. I loved singing. But I really either sucked at it, or had an annoying voice (I’m not sure which). Anyhow, through their various discouragements, I became really shy of singing around them. That only left school choir, singing when I was completely alone, and church. When nothing else attracted me there (especially in junior school when there was no choir), church was the place where I could go to sing.
Again, I loved dancing-had never been taught, apart from at school (ballroom), but I loved it. I was auditioning to dance in this musical, and they asked me to just dance to the music-how??! So I just…closed my eyes and danced. …fine enough, I thought, but I was in a very few seconds so soundly mocked for it by my family, that for many years I simply couldn’t dance unless it was ballroom.
And the last, was emotions. When I was little, I felt I couldn’t challenge my siblings (apart from the next youngest-we fought all the time). So I would just shove aside any anger or frustration, and it accumulated. One day, at my dad’s house, my other brother was teasing me about something (I forget what), and I snapped. I yelled at him for a long time-strings of abuse made of every horrible feeling I could remember having had about him. I yelled until it had all been said. And he looked hurt, attacked, defeated. In some ways, it really restored his humanity in my eyes. He asked me to promise never to bottle up my emotions again.
So I took another, equally destructive tack. I denied its existence. And I grew like a stone, thinking that to be strong I needed to discard anything-any emotion- that made me weak. I didn’t express emotion-apart from anger and violence and this amused face- and so I stopped feeling it, for the most part. I worked on an amazingly short fuse, and lashed out at anyone or thing that I could get away with hurting-mostly my friends. I was my own worst enemy, really. I convinced myself that the reason no guy I liked, liked me, was because I was impossible to love, and totally unlikeable …so I stopped liking guys, because it was a futile endeavour … I had trouble believing compliments-I took them as veiled insults… and (apart from my Mama) I never really believed that I was loved. I was a ball of painful contradictions.
At Parachute a couple of years back, the first of the chains fell away. It was the last morning, and someone lead us in a prayer-looking back, I think it was the prayer to receive Christ-I found myself crying-I hadn’t cried in years- and, what’s more, in public! I was able to feel again. What a painful blessing! I could feel other’s misery, but I couldn’t feel my own joy because I still didn’t believe in it.
Volunteering as a kids’ camp leader at El Rancho last year was a huge gift to me-I can dance again! I can sing! I’m not amazing, but the fact that I can do so, as an expression of my emotions even, for fun even, is amazing in itself.
But the biggest one was 2011-my last year of high school. I “went out” with someone-I just wanted to know him better. I was fond of him, but felt nothing stronger. He, on the other hand, liked me a lot-but I didn’t really believe it. In the end, I dumped him, horribly. But I still wanted to be friends. How screwy is that? Anyhow, he was really hurt. It was this hurt that made me believe him. I could be loved. I don’t know how worthy I am of love, but it’s possible.
And you know what? It was only then that I really, really started believing in- not just brain belief, but with emotions as well, about Jesus. But how screwy was I that to believe in God’s love, I had to experience human love, and to see that, I had to hurt someone. And that’s the really sucky thing about us: we hurt each other without meaning to, all the time. Equally though, it’s an amazing thing about God: He can turn even our horrible nature, and horrible deeds to good.
So that’s my most obvious chains stripped away: The ones that people could see straight out, if they were really, really looking.
My greatest testimony though, is my greatest trouble. It’s where I’ve prayed the most, and where God has changed me the most.
Let us begin with the nature of reality.
Things in the world seem and are. But what seems to be isn’t necessarily what is-take visual illusions- and how one person perceives the world is shaped by their own biases, preconceptions, and experience, and so is quite different from how another sees. So what seems and what is is quite separate: Thus, I believe there to be an objective reality, separate from our own perceptions.
So basically what I’m saying is that when I say what is real, I tell you honestly what I believe to be real through the lens of my life: you can, and will, see it however you wish through your own, unique lens.
When people sleep, they usually dream, but most of the time people don’t remember their dreams. But in the dreams they do remember, they usually can’t tell that they’re dreaming. I’ve done a little research, and there are some clues-most commonly, ways to “reality check” differences between dreams and reality.
I’ve tried keeping an eye out, but the “reality check” idea doesn’t work for me, since everything, during my dreams, seems perfectly ordinary and reasonable, or rather, it all seems so real. I’ve had very few dreams where I realised I was asleep.
But what’s so special about that? My dreams seem real to me, and so, to me are as real as waking life. Thus, I have died. Been attacked by the ones I love. I have been chased. Laughed in the face of death. The number of nice dreams I’ve had is still truly negligible, even though the ratio has started evening out a bit. So I know what it is for all of these things to happen, because I experienced them all.
And I can say to you: Fear of death is worse than death itself. God may send you tests in your life, but any fear or panic you feel is not part of those tests. Those feelings are not from God. They are traps.
Strange and horrible dreams you can get used to –I no longer feel fear in my dreams. But until very recently – (at a christian winter conference in 2012) when, after a ridiculously long string of them, and some avoidance of sleep on my part, a couple of guys prayed with me about it)-until that prayer I woke from these dreams to fear. Sometimes after a string of these dreams I tried to avoid sleep-to avoid waking, or at least to make myself so tired that I wouldn’t remember my dreams.
Hell is seeing God as unreachable, in His absence. Hell is reliving to yourself, with no hope in your heart, the worst experiences in your life, the worst choices. Hell has no rest- like waking from a nightmare, and unable to forget, and not tired enough to sleep dreamlessly, unable to sleep at all. Hell is eventually forgetting about hope, and about love, and peace, and every good thing, and knowing only the agony of their absence.
So in some ways, my friends, waking had been to me something very like hell. I was at Strive surrounded by people who would want to know-want to support and care for me- yet, waking, I felt so isolated from them that they really felt like they were in a different world.
That is my testimony. I can say truthfully that that is the area in my life where God has helped me the most-the area that needed the most help.
You can choose to believe, or choose to doubt, but I tell you, I am often surprised when I wake up, to still be alive, to wake up at all. So I marvel at small things-warmth and light and the expressions on people’s faces. I enjoy life “maybe a little too much” and strive to show others, just for a little while, what it is to think, to experience, believe, and to live.
Mostly people can’t even take it past “what if?” Mostly people think I’m a little crazy. But so what? Aren’t we all? None of us lives the objective experience. None of us sees the world as it really is, so how can we really judge what is crazy?
I would say this is the end, but I’m still breathing. And as every breath of mine is something to marvel over, my testimony, my witness to God and His amazing “ness” is not over.