How do you condense 41 years into 10 minutes? What do you choose to say, to leave out, to focus on? That was my challenge at a weekly neighborhood ladies’ Bible study I attend. Though I had heard two women the week before successfully meet the challenge, I felt incompetent to follow suit now that it was my turn. In my preparation, I even googled, “How to tell your life story in 10 minutes.” (Google, of course, had answers.)
I brainstormed and took notes about my life. I tried to see a pattern or focal point. However, how to organize and communicate my “life story” continued to evade me. Through the years, I’ve been through a lot and learned a lot. What was worthy of making the cut and sharing? Feeling helpless, I prayed God would direct my words.
Shortly after the sun rose, I headed to the early morning Bible study carrying a few handwritten notes but still not possessing clarity on what exactly I would say. As I walked towards the front door of the home, I made one final plea asking for God’s help.
What I ended up actually sharing with the seven other ladies as we sat in a circle in a cozy living room shocked me. Though I had jotted down several shaping life events that I would share depending on time and how I felt in the moment, in the end, I only shared one story from my life. A story I had intentionally sought to hide for twenty years. Though I started by briefly sharing how I didn’t know when I became a Christian, the main focus of my 10 allotted minutes was my long-time buried secret.
Well, the event had been buried, but back in 2018 when someone in my church experienced a similar trial, the event was unexpectedly and suddenly brought to light. At that time I blogged about it twice, which was both hard and healing (part 1; part 2). But since then it has mainly been in burial mode with only a rare brief appearance in conversation. Who goes around casually mentioning they hit a pedestrian?
Surprisingly, at the Bible study I was able to share the incident without getting emotional except ever so slightly at one point, which the ladies probably didn’t even notice. One time shortly after the incident, I had publicly spoken about it in a college speech class and had gotten so emotional it was difficult for the teacher to grade the speech. Perhaps that experience is one reason I have shied away from talking about it. If I recall correctly, that was the one and only time I willingly chose to initiate talking about the incident at length in a group setting until the Bible study.
I was so thankful that I had remained calm while sharing at the Bible study that upon returning home and seeing my husband outside doing some house maintenance, I triumphantly informed him that I had not gotten emotional. “Good job!” he exclaimed.
Consequently, I was rather surprised that within a few minutes I found myself overcome by sobs in the privacy of my room. Why this sudden emotion? I tried to understand. Revealing my deepest, darkest trial with these new women in my life and how God had later used it to help me minister to the woman in our church wasn’t the issue. It was realizing that of all the things I could have shared from my 41 years of living — the miscarriages, the moves, the trips, the friendships, the mentors, the churches, the marital struggles, the kids, our karate involvement, homeschooling — out of all of it — this is what summed up my entire life. How is that possible? How could this horrific event that for 20 years I had wished out of my life be the very thing that sums up my life?
Though I’ve had a number of other moments of testing that have changed my life and significantly challenged my faith, the horrible moment when I was 18 years old represents on steroids all the other moments. That split second when a girl chasing a dog crossed the path of my moving car has by far impacted me the most of any other trial to date. Rarely does a day go by that I am not negatively affected in someway by that moment and have to conscientiously choose to trust God. That split second led to me questioning God for years. Why? Why? Why did this have to be in my life story? Other trials were bad. But typically over time they ended happily or with closure or with healing or were not in the forefront of my mind. Not so with this particular trial. Only my last breath will end this one. At the slightest provocation, it’s ready to rear its ugly head and cause me anxiety, which I must for the billionth time cast upon God who cares for me (I Peter 5:7).
I’ve had miscarriages. I’ve had marital struggles. I’ve suffered broken relationships. But nothing approximates that moment. And yet…after 20 years of having my faith severely tested, God graciously revealed in 2018 that there was truly a purpose in that deep pain. Out of all the people in our church body, I was uniquely equipped to comfort a hurting sister in Christ. Though I will struggle with the repercussions of that accident for the rest of my life, I now have seen at least part of the purpose of that pain. Witnessing God keep His promise to work all things together for good to those who love Him was overwhelmingly encouraging and strengthening (Roman 8:28). The ladies at the Bible study seemed moved as well at hearing of God’s faithfulness.
Currently, I’m facing new trials that I once again don’t see the purpose of the pain. My faith is again being tested in new ways. I’m tempted once again to doubt God. But I have seen God take the worst moment of my life and work it for good, which should give me the confidence and be a constant reminder that He can take any trial I face and equally make it work together for good.
When I told the group at the beginning that I didn’t know when I became a Christian, I also read II Corinthians 13:5 which says, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves.” Through sharing the hardest test of my faith, I unintentionally helped prove to the group and myself the genuineness of my faith. I don’t know when I became a Christian, but testing after testing after testing keeps proving the reality of my faith. It only makes sense that God would have directed me to share about the most significant test He has sent me so far.
My life story can be further condensed to the following three words: Walking by faith. And that is the ultimate life story for every Christian. Trials bombard us our entire lives. Some big. Some small. Through them all, a true Christian will walk by faith trusting that God is actually at work despite the pain. True Christians may have weak faith at times, but they will keep walking, keep crawling, keep clinging, keep believing.
“We walk by faith, not by sight.” (II Corinthians 5:7)
“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6
What’s your life story?