My husband's words startled me. Am I ready??? I've been sharing my testimony with others for the past eleven years; Terry is the one who rarely speaks of our ugly past! (Read I Hate Your Testimony!)
I sensed an imminent growth spurt in our marriage.
I will always remember the day before we were scheduled to share our testimony--together for the very first time!
For days I had been praying over the project and working through what we should say, but it just wasn't coming together. I knew in my heart what was needed: our togetherness.
Terry didn't have to work that Saturday morning, which was a rare treat! When he began telling me his plans for the day--which included running errands--my heart sank. As we live in the country, there is no "quick trip" into town. With one day left to pull this thing together, I began to feel a sense of panic rising in my chest.
When he asked me to join him, it was a struggle to keep the irritation out of my voice. "I really need to stay home and work on our testimony."
"Why don't you come with me and we'll find a quiet spot in Nashville and work on it together." An invitation I could not resist!
We wound up in a quaint little coffee shop, surrounded by books and antiques. By the time we left there two hours later, the past had been sifted through, suppressed memories brought into the light, and our hearts knit tightly together. Our prayer was that the Lord Alone would be glorified.
As the pastor spoke in preparation of introducing our family to his congregation, one thought ran through my mind: "Are we seriously about to do this???" An overwhelming sense of peace pushed away all doubt and fear. Terry and I approached the pulpit and boldly faced the crowd.
We had decided to begin with the girls-Stephanie, Emily, and Haley-singing their powerful rendition of How Great Thou Art so that folks could see where the Lord had brought us even before we began sharing where we had been. This beautiful song set the tone for the next hour.
After thanking the girls and leading us in prayer, Terry explained that due to our children's singing ministry, we are afforded many opportunities to meet new folks. "Most people look at our family and assume that we've always been Christians," he said. "But that's not the case."
We took turns sharing about our past, each from our own unique perspective and interspersed with a few songs sung by the girls throughout. After I shared how I had finally surrendered my life to Christ in March 2007, Haley sang a fitting song she had recently written titled, "Broken Hearts".
Then, with my husband's strong arm of assurance around me, I boldly shared the testimony that I had previously written here on my blog: When the Truth Came Out. I've got to be honest, sharing here on the blog is WAY easier than confessing my sin before a room-full of strangers! Though it was a bit intimidating, I could feel the Lord pouring out His grace on me.
The girls followed this segment with a song by Judy Rogers titled, "God is Our Refuge".
We then began sharing of how, four years after conversion, we both continued to feel hindered by our past. Terry likened this to "a deep wound that had scabbed over. The infection was still there, festering below the surface, but as long as we didn't pick at it, we could ignore it and continue on." I shared the question that continued to tug at my heart: "If all had been forgiven, why were the memories still so painful?"
We explained how God orchestrated for us to go through a marriage intimacy course and what we discovered about bitterness and forgiveness. I explained how I finally felt empowered to deal with the pain in my heart and how this played out for me:
"I began by listing each way I had been hurt by my parents, siblings, and other family members, and added several emotional pain words to describe how each memorable incident made me feel; words such as afraid, angry, betrayed, neglected, shamed, unloved. I also recorded painful memories associated with these hurts.
"Then I asked the Lord to search my heart and bring to my mind all the ways others had hurt me. I recorded offenses of friends, past teachers, employers, and others. I also realized that I had bitterness toward God and myself, and so I recorded those offenses as well. Finally, I began working through each way Terry had hurt me."As a side note, I explained that I had written everything in a 70 page spiral bound notebook with the words PRIVATE scrawled on the cover. "I needed to be able to freely share my pain and most intimate thoughts without the worry of someone else reading what was in my heart."
Finally I shared how I had prayed through each issue daily until every offense was settled. "Once those issues were resolved in my heart, I ceremoniously burned that notebook in the wood stove."
MacKenzie softly played Be Thou My Vision on her penny whistle, while Terry read the letter he had written to me for our 25th wedding anniversary celebration a few months ago.
As I looked into the attentive faces of the people we had revealed our secrets to, I saw compassion and teary eyes. One lady was openly weeping. My final words were:
"We don't know what is going on in your lives or in your heart tonight. But God knows. Maybe you are holding onto bitterness and need to forgive and take your pain to Jesus. I can tell you that you can trust Him with it. Perhaps you are thinking about walking away from a bad marriage. Maybe you are facing a situation that looks utterly hopeless. We want to encourage you that 'with God all things are possible.' Our marriage and our family is living proof of that!"All our children joined together to sing the song I wrote several years ago titled "An Eternal Difference."
The pastor returned to the pulpit, tearfully thanked us, and addressed his congregation, speaking of how our amazing testimony meshed with the lessons they had been learning together as a church body during the past six weeks regarding the power of forgiveness.
Yet another milestone in our journey of forgiveness and healing. God is so good!