My wedding day was one of the best of my life. How could it not be! Surrounded by the people I loved most in the world, about to marry my best friend, dressed for sure to impress! My wedding day was incredible, one of the most special of our married lives, but how would it sound to you if when you asked about my marriage now, I went back to 12th December 2009 and started gushing about our wedding.
We love to hear testimony don’t we, hearing how people came to know Jesus. It’s incredible, it’s special. But if we speak of testimony all the time as past events, if we confine our testimony to how God brought us to Himself, as incredible as that was (if indeed there was such an isolated, particular special moment or day), would it not be like talking about your marriage and only ever speaking of your wedding day?
Nearly 11 years on in our marriage, and Ben and I have gone through so many joys, celebrations, so much pain and grief. Our marriage has been tested through times of physical and mental illness, through times of infertility, and times of helplessness in parenting. We have let each other down, and we have built one another up. We have known plenty and we have known lack, and there have been countless moments where we have reacted and responded in completely opposite ways to one another over the same event.
Our marriage is so incredibly precious to both of us. We are each other’s fiercest defenders and champions in life. We speak the truth to one another, at cost, and we vision big together. There are times we do that well and in a way that our heavenly Father delights in, and there are times we do that thoughtlessly. Our marriage can certainly testify to the power of repentance and forgiveness. So it would be weird wouldn’t it, if when you asked about my marriage, I spoke of vows without the lived out and ongoing fulfilling and failing of them. It would seem strange to confine talk about my marriage to the two of us, when now we have two daughters and one another’s families.
To speak of my marriage is certainly to share of how Ben and I met (at a mutual friend’s party and then out in Eastbourne town- sorry it’s not more classy!), to tell you about our wedding day, but for you to truly now about my marriage now, you would be waiting to hear of how life together is now.
And to speak of our testimony is of course to share how the Lord brought us to Himself. That is incredibly precious and memorable. The beauty of a Christian upbringing, hearing the gospel as a child, singing hymns before you knew what Spotify was. That is powerful testimony. Or maybe it was a confrontation of sinful behaviour and life lived far from the Lord, and brought into Christian fellowship, into light and life with Jesus. However we come, it is testimony to God’s gracious merciful and powerful work in our hearts by his Spirit, calling us to come to Him as our Father through His Son, Jesus. The Christian life of repentance and faith, of assurance in Jesus’ death on the cross for your sins is life worth testifying to.
But in the words of Spurgeon,
However you come to Christ you can never place any confidence in how you came. Your confidence must always rest in him you came to- that is, in Christ- whether you come to him flying, or running, or walking… it is not how you come, it is whether you come to him”
Our testimony is the testimony of God’s work in the lives of His children. It is by nature not a past event, not a once in a life time moment, not a unique and special day. It is ongoing, a work that God has begun in us and which He assures us He will bring to completion at the day of Christ Jesus.
As he does so, after those wedding vows are made as it were, as we are united to Christ by faith, we live out those vows. He is the perfect groom who loves his imperfect, but ever so dearly, so perfectly loved bride. The experiences of our life with Christ, just as the experiences of my marriage with Ben, are the ongoing testimony we bear witness to.
The experiences God takes us through can be so full of joy, of celebration, of pain and grief, but they are the places in which the gospel is grounded, embodied, interpreted and lived out.
Human experience is the place in which God by his spirit works. Our experiences form us and shape us because through them it is God, by His Spirit forming us and shaping us. Our experiences, the things that ‘happen to us’ are not detached from our Christian faith. Our lives are our lives lived with God, even before we knew Him, as He knew us.
We don’t know God apart from life, as separate to life. Our Christian faith is not an add on, a list of our hobbies, an experience separate to other experience, or a relationship even that is separate from all others. Our living, our experiences shape us, because God at every moment of our lives is working in us and through us, revealing His character to us, and working out his Kingdom plans.
My testimony, and yours is the testimony of God and his work in the lives of his children. My story is part of His eternal, universal, story. We give testimony because we testify not to ourselves, not to bear witness to our work in our lives, not even to the events themselves, but to the eternal glorious, loving, merciful work of God throughout history and through us.
We give our story as part of the story of history.
The story of our life as part of this eternal story of God as Father, Son and Spirit.