We Are About Relationships
Not long ago, I reread Tom Long’s book, Testimony: Talking Ourselves into Being Christian. I recommend it for any Christian who would acknowledge her anxiety around the idea of talking about faith in a public setting. Or in any setting, for that matter. My hunch is that many of us share Long’s presumption that Christians, for the most part, prefer to remain private about their faith. And then Long goes on to define this anxiety-laden term, testimony, as simply this: “speaking the truth about life and about ourselves, which is grounded in the truth about God.”
Over the last four weeks, some of our members have done just that—spoken truths about their lives and the truth about God at work in their lives. Listening to them, I never got the sense that these folks had everything figured out, or had their theology down pat; which is right in line with what Tom Long observes in his book: that when “we talk about our faith, we are not merely expressing our beliefs; we are coming more fully and clearly to believe.” In other words, we don’t need to have it all together to speak the truth of our lives.
In fact, sometimes we can speak the truth without using words. Like Molly King.
Molly is a rising 3rd grader. Some time ago, I noticed that she had begun singing with our chancel choir, standing on the very front row, beaming. I was impressed enough to write her a note, and with her permission, I share this excerpt:
Recently, during worship on Sunday, I’ve noticed the choir has a new member. She is a young, red-haired girl who stands down front. She seems to enjoy herself and to be fully engaged in her task—singing praises to God and leading us in worship . . . So my observation is this: what you are doing each Sunday as you stand and sing in our worship service is testimony. That’s a word that means, “bravely showing others what you think is important.” You are showing our congregation that you believe God is important—so important, in fact that standing up in front of a bunch of grown-ups is no big deal . . . Remember these moments of standing out in front of people in your faith. Because as you grow older, the idea of standing out in front may get scarier or harder to do . . . If one day, though, you find yourself in need of someone to stand beside you or alongside you (with your parents, of course), please don’t hesitate to call on me. If I am at all able, I will be there.
Your friend, Mr. Mark
Later in his book, Tom Long observes that whenever we “call out to one another in the ordinary speech of human communion, we have begun our testimony to the ways of God. Language is powerful . . . Whenever we use our words to join in the activity of God in the world—to form community, to heal, to forgive, to set things right—we are bearing faithful witness to God.” Glad to know even my little note falls under the category of testimony.
By the way, Molly wrote me a note back, a testimony of her own. She said this: “Do you remember the letter you sent me? Well I kept the letter and stored it in a box . . . It touched my heart in five places.” If by speaking from behind a lectern, or standing to sing, or writing a note, or (fill in the blank), we can bear faithful witness to the truth about God in our lives—and potentially touch a heart (in five places, no less)—what are we worried about?