Born and raised in a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran Church, I didn’t grow up hearing testimonies. We walked into church reverently, sat quietly on a wooden pew, tried to behave through the sermon, sang the liturgy and all the hymns, and shook the pastor’s hand on the way out. It sounds rather non-emotional and stark, but still today if I hear that old liturgy or any of the old hymns I feel as though I have gone home and peace floods my soul.
But testimonies? No. The only person who spoke in church was the pastor.
So imagine my intrigue over the years when I attended church with friends — Nazarene, Assembly of God, Church of Christ, Church of God in Christ, Missionary Baptist — where others not only read the Scripture, but burst out of the pew from time to time to share a ‘testimony’. I am sure my eyes were wide the first time I saw someone stand before the congregation declaring how God had rescued him from whatever peril he had been chasing, but over the years I have experienced a variety of forms of worship and not much surprises me any more.
God’s pretty amazing. He shows up in a very formal Wisconsin Synod worship service, and He shows up in lot of other places, too! And, get this, they aren’t all church. He meets us wherever we we have need.
Years ago someone challenged me to write out my testimony. I did. I have misplaced it over the years, but I remember I titled it ‘Rescued by Grace’. So, this morning when I was reading the last lesson in my Bible study workbook and the topic was ‘grace’, I was reminded of the different places that God has shown up in my life. So, kids, buckle up, I’m bursting from my pew.
The first time that I am aware of being Rescued by Grace was the day I was born. My mother is only 5’2″ and I, her largest baby at 8 lbs. 13 oz., was trapped in the birth canal. The doctor in the delivery room didn’t know how to get me out, but if I have the story right, it just so happened (you might read that as ‘it came to pass’) that a specialist was at the small community hospital in rural Michigan. He swooped in and delivered me with forceps. Rescued by Grace.
While I was in elementary school, my dad was a traveling salesman (not like Harold Hill, although his name is Harold, he was a respectable hardware salesman). He was gone a lot and my mother also worked part-time. I needed a safe place to play after school, and there was a family at the end of our street who had a daughter my age. Her mother worked from home caring for her disabled husband and specially challenged adult daughter. Almost every day after school I went to this house as though it were my own. If money changed hands, I never knew about it. What I knew is that I was safe and loved unconditionally. I could be a real pistol to my friend and also to her mother, but they hung in there and loved me unfailingly. Rescued by Grace.
As a young adolescent, recently tossed about by my parents’ divorce and subsequent remarriages, I found stability through my confirmation classes. It’s true. It was the late 1970s and my pastor was fresh from the seminary. He convinced me through his comments in class and in my confirmation workbook (which I still have) that I was called by God. So later, when I found myself distracted and hurting on a detour that landed me at a large university, I was able to hear that call myself and get back on the path to professional church work by transferring to a small Lutheran college. Rescued by Grace.
Now, by the time I transferred I had a full-blown eating disorder. But, God had placed me in a very small place where I could not go unnoticed. In fact, every day when I dropped by the nurse’s office to weigh myself, she engaged me in conversation, not about my weight, but about my life. So a year after I transferred, when I walked into her office and said, “I can’t do this any more,” she lifted up a card that had been sitting on her desk for who knows how long and, with me, called the eating disorders clinic and got me an appointment the next day. Rescued by Grace.
I mean it goes on and on. I see that I am now at over 700 words and I am not sure how much longer you will read. But surely you have seen through this blog how the rescuing continues. I was soldiering on in St. Louis over the past several years, trying to hold my life together “by myself, thank you very much” (the toddler comes out from time to time) and God swooped in. A friend sent a note pointing out a position that truly is perfect for my husband. She didn’t have to, but she listened to the prodding of the Spirit and was a small cog in the wheel that was planning to Rescue me by Grace once again.
I’m probably going to have to turn this one into a book because as I write the situations keep popping into my head. Our God is relentless in pursuing us, kids. He doesn’t care how stubborn you are. He doesn’t care if your church doesn’t share testimonies publicly. He is going to keep coming after you, waiting for the day that you will turn and run to Him.
Luke 15: 20
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him, and kissed him.