“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”
“No matter what anyone tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”
One of my favourite lines from one of my favourite movies, Dead Poets Society.
The world is made of stories.
Words and ideas transferred from one heart to another. Yes, we are made of atoms and cells and organs and blood and bone and flesh and skin, but this collected material houses our living stories. They’re a vehicle for the narrative of our lives.
That’s what a testimony is: the proof or statement of your story. We all have a testimony; our lives testify of our experiences, beliefs, and convictions. Your testimony might be that Coldplay is the greatest band alive, or the Queen B is, in fact, the queen.
It might be that reading is empowering, or that reading is hard. Eating Paleo has saved your life, or perhaps made your health worse.
It could be that country living is the best, or that surfing is a spiritual experience, or that God speaks audibly, or that violence is a devastating downward spiral, or that you had to protect your family to the point of being violent… Your life testifies of your education, failures, successes, upbringing, passions, hang-ups, vices and victories. It’s all there in the story carried around in your body.
“The stories of our lives are not weapons and were never meant to ostracise those we don’t agree with or oppose those who aren’t the same as us.”
Powerful, two minute reads that have helped change the script in thousands of people's lives.
The way we've talked about ‘testimonies’ in faith communities, you’d think a testimony was an object, something you bring down from the shelf to show people and prove a point from time to time. “Here's my testimony, let me show you how it works.”
I bet you’ve had the same conversations I’ve had:
My testimony is boring. I’ve been in church all my life.
Your testimony is amazing! All those things you’ve been through!
My testimony is powerful. I was at death's door and was then miraculously healed.
I don’t think I even have a testimony, I’ve never experienced a miracle.
We measure and judge them. Throw them around like weapons, wave them in people's faces, point them at crowds and lunge at others with them. “This is my story, and it should be your story, too!”
Lately, particularly on Social Media, people have used their faith as a weapon to attack other people and their choices. While some things are black and white wrong, the stories of our lives are not weapons and were never meant to ostracise those we don’t agree with or oppose those who aren’t the same as us.
But I get how it works. When something has happened in your life, and you feel so strongly about it, it's difficult not to throw that testimony in the face of others who don’t get it like you do. For, e.g., if you’ve experienced miraculous healing, and you hear someone say that they don’t believe God heals, or that he can’t heal, or that he isn’t even real, you want to pull that testimony out and fire it off, right? Tell them that you KNOW he is real, you’ve experienced it, YOU are proof of his existence and that he does heal. Your life testifies to this truth and should reveal that truth to them as well, so much so that they should it change their mind and beliefs.
That’s why we testify, right? To prove something? To make a point? To get people to see the truth?
The punch line might sometimes be the thing we remember most about a story, but the narrative as a whole enables its delivery. We need to stop using our testimony purely as punch lines and start living our stories alongside others.
Before a story testifies any truth to any other person, it first has to work its magic in our own lives.
Written by Liz Milani