BY JAY SAWRIE
Maybe it’s my Evangelical, Missionary Baptist upbringing, but I’ve always loathed my boring testimony. When I was a pre-teen, I went to church camp pretty regular. Every night there was some sort of late night activity: movie night, skit night, musical night, etc. But one year, we were greeted with “testimony night”. What happens is people get up, and in front of everyone, tell about who they were before getting saved and who they are now. This, by the way, is what introverts think of when they imagine what Hell will be like. Either publicly confessing all your sins so that every stranger in a crowded room of peers and adults know your darkest secrets or an eternity of Stand and Greet Your Neighbor Time and you don’t know anyone.
I never got up. Not just because it’s terrifying but also because I didn’t have a very good testimony. It’s boring. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve absolutely come to a place where I’ve realized that I am a sinner and without Christ, lost without hope. I’m just saying if you are asking for a total black and white transformation I don’t think I can promise you that.
Because I’ve always been in the church.
My parents raised me in a Christian home where we always prayed, we always heard the Gospel. We went to church every Sunday without fail. I don’t remember a time not knowing I was a sinner. Seriously, I’ve always understood that Christ died for me. I made a profession of faith at seven. Seven-year-olds don’t usually have radical stories of transformation when they’ve grown up in the Church. Sure, I coveted my friend’s Veggie Tale collection, but I by no means was a pagan. And because of that background, my teen years weren’t this rebellious time of hedonism. Again, by no means was I perfect. My parents will be the first to tell you I wasn’t. But I also wouldn’t call my Christian walk a radical transformation.
Flash forward to my Bible college years, and I’m in my bedroom my junior year, sitting there in the near-dark thinking, “Am I really a Christian? Has Christ really saved me? I know I’m a sinner and I have nowhere outside of Christ to go. But this radical transformation thing? I don’t have it. I’ve always been here.”
Here’s what I was missing: God is a God of boring salvation too. Yes, there are times when He redeems people like He does Paul (Acts 9); a great black and white difference. He shows up on the Damascus road, rocks our world, shows us our sin and that Christ died for us and keeps us by faith. Sometimes, salvation comes out of nowhere and people are radically changed. And for these we should be grateful. They are great stories of God who goes and saves His people out of their bondage.
But sometimes, God is a God to us and to our children. Sometimes, He is just keeping His covenant promises. He doesn’t need a Damascus road but, rather puts us in families where, like Timothy, we’ve always known the Scriptures. I was born into a family where I would always hear the Gospel. That wasn’t chance, God is sovereign in His redemption. Instead of saying, “Oh He is a great redeemer!” I’m rather struck by looking back and seeing His strong arm to protect me. I could marvel forever at His ongoing faithfulness to keep me when I do sin. As the hymn Abide With Me says,
“Thou on my head in early youth didst smile,
And though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee.
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.”
So if you, dear Christian, would doubt God’s faithfulness to you on the grounds that your conversion isn’t flashy enough, let me encourage you. God saves the rebel. He most certainly does. But He also saves His covenant children. You don’t need to get a better story, but to get one more look at Christ.
Jay Sawrie is an intern of the Presbyterian Church in America. He is a recent transplant to Northwest Arkansas where he lives with his lovely wife Allyson and their dog Ellie. Jay is also a contributor for Late Night Theology, a reader of Flannery O’Connor, and is working toward pastoring Presbyterian churches in the South.