When I was 8 I hated my red hair.
I didn’t want red hair.
I wanted blonde hair, like Cinderella or Aurora.
Their gorgeous hair looked so perfect, and I had mega hair envy.
When I became a teen, I started memorizing verses about self-image and eventually realized God thought my red hair was beautiful and He made it that way on purpose. Eventually, I came to like it.
Occasionally, people (be they friends or random hair stylists) have told me that they love my red hair and wished they had hair this color. I kinda laugh to myself whenever this happens– If only they knew how much I used to hate it.
If only they knew how much I used to struggle with hair envy.
Similarly, I used to struggle with testimony envy.
I grew up going to church and I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior when I was seven, at home with my mom.
That next summer at Vacation Bible School, I remember my church’s pastor telling my class about Jesus and how to ask Jesus to come into our hearts. Then he said for everyone to close their eyes and if we hadn’t asked Jesus to save us yet, for us to raise our hand.
I folded my hands in my lap. I knew I was already a Christian.
Then he had everyone who raised their hands to get up and go with a couple of adults to a side room where they were going to talk some more.
Bunches of kids stood up to go into that other room. I sat there wondering what would happen in that room. Wondering what it would be like to be saved at VBS– how cool would that be!?!
I felt left out, because I couldn’t go with them to that cool room since I was already a Christian.
And in that moment, I started feeling testimony envy.
As I grew older, the testimony envy grew too.
I started attending a private Christian school when I entered the sixth grade. There, as well as at church, I heard amazing testimonies from adults about how they came to know Jesus as their Savior.
Their testimonies all had one thing in common- they had all done terrible things before coming to Jesus and then once Jesus saved them their lives were forever different.
I fidgeted in my seat. Since, I hadn’t done anything super bad before I came to Jesus, I thought my testimony wasn’t worth anything. I couldn’t even really remember life before I was seven; I couldn’t tell someone what I was like before meeting Jesus. Even though I knew I was a sinner and we all do bad things, I still felt unworthy.
I believed I had a lame testimony. Worse, I even began to doubt my salvation. Maybe something really bad needed to happen to me in order for God to fully use my testimony.
In the 10th grade, I enrolled in a 2 week long class about missions.
At the beginning of the class, my teacher said we needed to learn how to share our testimonies. I slumped down in my seat; I didn’t like sharing my lame testimony.
She then told us that a testimony has three parts to it:
1) What our lives were like before we met Christ.
2) When we started following Jesus.
3) What our lives are like after knowing Jesus.
I had never heard this before. I thought testimonies were only what your life was like before you knew Jesus and then when you started following Him as your Lord and Savior.
Knowing that my testimony could include things that happened after I was saved really perked me up.
And then that dark part of my life I had always wished would happen, happened.
At the end of 10th grade, almost exactly 10 days before I turned 16, my 18 year old cousin unexpectedly died of sudden cardiac arrest.
Needless to say, I was shocked.
And to make a very long story short, during the next year I became very closed off to the people around me as I struggled with grief and depression. I wondered where God was. I wondered why He lets bad things happen in the world.
The following May, I was singing “Beautiful” by Phil Wickham with a group of people. And as we sang that song, I realized that God had never left my side, but rather I had run away from Him.
Since then, every year someone I know and love has died. Every stinkin’ year. I’m still waiting for there to be a year where no one I know dies. Maybe 2017 will be that year? (Please, God!)
But as I’ve learned about grief and death and loss, I’ve also learned a lot about God.
Even though bad things happen to us and others around us, God still loves us. He still wants us to have hope in His Son.
Jesus once told His disciples, “I have told you these things so that in me you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble- but take heart!- I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33).
I now have that “deep” testimony I always wished for as a child, but it isn’t as cool as I thought it would be.
SURPRISE KARA! Having terrible things happen so you can have an awesome testimony isn’t that awesome in the moment. Lol.
Needless to say, I no longer have testimony envy.
I’ve realized that God gives us each a story to share with the world and our stories are all unique so we can reach different kinds of people.
Your testimony is probably vastly different than mine. And mine is different than yours too.
But through our unique situations, we all have a personal message to share about the good news of Jesus Christ. The message of the saving grace of Jesus Christ is always the same, it’s just the mode of delivery that changes from person to person.
So really, there is no need for testimony envy.
The Hamburger Testimony.
I went on a mission trip to Northeast England this past May. As my team and I prepared, we learned about a tool called the hamburger testimony.
It’s consists of the same three points I listed above, but relates them to parts of a hamburger. It really helped me get over my testimony-sharing-shyness, and maybe it will help you too :)
So the bottom bun is what your life was like before you met Jesus.
Ex: When I was growing up, my parents took me to church pretty much every time the doors were opened.
The meat is how you met Jesus.
Ex: When I was seven years old, I was homeschooled and my mom liked to start our day off with a Bible story. Often, she would ask me when I would like to start following Jesus, and I would always say “Someday!” Then one day, my heart started pounding and I knew that day had come. So I answered my mom with, “Today!” So from that point on I started following Jesus.
The top bun is life after you met Jesus.
Ex: Life since I started following Jesus certainly hasn’t been easy. Many people I love have died and I struggled with immense grief and even depression and anxiety. But even through those hard times, I have hope because Jesus promises never to leave me. I don’t have to fear my future, because I know He has a plan for my life, and that He will work all things to His glory.
Pretty simple, right? :)
We were also taught that after we shared our hamburger testimony with someone, that we could then ask them, “Has something like that ever happened to you?” and continue the conversation from there.
Satan wants us to wallow in testimony envy.
He wants us to think that we’re nothing special or too broken for God to spread the good news of Jesus.
But that is a lie.
Each of our stories are unique and God can use us sharing our stories to reach different people.
Maybe Billy Joe McGuffrey won’t be able to relate to my testimony, but maybe he could relate to yours instead.
The important thing is for us to stop wishing our story was like somebody else’s and start realizing God gave it to us so we can reach people with it.
God didn’t make a mistake giving me red hair, and He certainly didn’t make a mistake by giving me the story He did.
He didn’t make a mistake giving you your story either. :)
Related: When Your Salvation Story Seems like Nothing Special by Julie