There is nothing like a powerful, God-stopped-me-in-my-tracks-on-the-road-to-Damascus-and-turned-my-life-around testimony. One of my childhood pastors, who greatly impacted my life, had such a testimony. He grew up in the streets of Ft. Worth in an unstable, single-parent household, with little Christian influence other than his grandmother, whom he visited in the country on occasion. Selected as a “bonus baby” pitcher for the Detroit Tigers as a young man, he for a time escaped his difficult city life, until injury to his pitching arm put him right back on the streets of Ft. Worth, where he turned to a life of gang violence and alcohol. Soon tiring of this lifestyle, and worried about how he was going to take care of his young family, he found himself one night wandering the neighborhood in despair. That was when he noticed the lights were still on in the church on the corner, and, undoubtedly due to the childhood influence of his grandmother, he went in to investigate. During that night’s prayer meeting, he prayed and turned his life over to Christ. Back on the streets, however, his newfound commitment to Christ was quickly pushed to the backburner. It would take a drastic event to once again turn his attention to God, and, before long, that event made its appearance in the form of a fierce Texas storm. As a tornado approached their home and the sirens blared, he and his wife scrambled desperately to get their three young children to safety. Driving frantically to the nearest storm shelter, he grabbed his two older children from the back seat while his wife carried the baby, and they hurried toward the door of the shelter. But then the unthinkable happened. My pastor lost his hold on one of the children, and just as he swooped to snatch him back up, a 2X4 was driven by the gale force winds into the ground, narrowly missing his firstborn’s head. In that moment, he looked up into heaven and cried out, “OK, Lord—I’ll preach!” And his life was changed forever.
While stories like this thrill me to the core, I cannot claim such a testimony for myself. I responded to Christ’s call on my life as a seven-year-old Sunday school child; mine was a non-dramatic step of simple faith. My lackluster conversion has always bothered me; how could my boring story possibly influence anyone to follow Christ? This week, however, as I worked through the third chapter of Malachi, a verse stood out to me that changed my perspective. God spoke through the prophet Malachi to confront his people concerning several sins, and to answer their ensuing objections. One of the complaints of the people was that they looked around them and saw the wicked prospering. Why should they even try to obey God, they wondered, if it was not going to give them any advantage? But God assured them that He would remember those who fear him, and that one day they would once more, “…see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and the one who does not serve him (Malachi 3:18).”
As I pondered this verse, I realized that it holds the key to my testimony. I may not have had a dramatic conversion experience, but since the day I gave my life to Christ, I have been walking with Him in the path of the righteous; not by virtue of anything good I have done, but because of Christ’s sacrifice that covers my sin (Proverbs 5:18, Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 2:8-9). Had Christ not called me and enabled me to follow Him, and had I not committed to live for Him in obedience, my life would have been completely different. I would not have experienced Christ’s sustaining power during difficult times (Psalm 55:22); I would not have had Christ to act on my behalf (Psalm 37:5); I would not have experienced Christ’s loving protection (Psalm 91); I would have wandered through life, without a clear path (Proverbs 5:18, Psalm 107:7); I would not have the promise of Heaven always before me, giving me hope (Matthew 25:46). Without Christ’s guidance and protection, who knows what unwise choices I would have made that would have negatively affected the course of my life? Perhaps drugs and alcohol would have been an appeal when I was a young teen. Perhaps the overwhelming force of peer pressure would have influenced me to follow the false religion so predominant in my community during high school. Undoubtedly, I would have never attended the church where I met my husband, much less married a man headed into the ministry. I cannot, and do not want to, fully imagine my life without Christ. Even if I had all the wealth and honor this world has to offer, my life would be meaningless without Him (Proverbs 11:28, Luke 12:15, James 2:5). This, then, is my testimony: “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance (Psalm 16:5-6).”