A Christian testimony may be defined as the story of one’s walk with God. On the other hand, some may consider it a statement of how one accepted Jesus the Christ as his or her savior. Either way, there is a problem with a tightly focused or simplistic definition of the term. A testimony limited by such definitions may have little, if any, life in it.
For example, consider my testimony. I accepted Jesus as my savior at ten years of age. For the record, I believe that act was as honest and heartfelt as my ten-year-old soul could manage. I still remember how great it felt to accept Him, and then publicly announce my acceptance through baptism.
I also remember how quickly the world intervened in my life and began pushing me farther and farther away from the path I should follow as a Christian. By the time I was married and had kids, I was so far from the walk I started at ten the hope of finding my way back was slim.
The fact you are reading this is a testimony to the power of a God who can make even slim chances become a reality. He allowed me to wander, but He was always there keeping the faith of that ten-year-old alive in one way or another. In His time, I came back to Him.
In some circles, those last three paragraphs could be my testimony. For example, one of the criteria for mission work I do in South America is a compact testimony. It needs to be short and to the point, or as some call it, a one hundred word testimony. Anyone feeling like a wordsmith today should give that a try. I’ve been attempting it for years, and I still have a hard time saying anything meaningful in one hundred words. The example above used one hundred and fifty- eight words.
This does make some sense when speaking of mission work. Often, you are sharing through an interpreter. You don’t want to be long-winded and hard to translate. Still, there are problems with short and to the point testimonies. For one thing, they can lack nuance and feeling. Also, they can leave out details that let the listener know God was at work behind the scenes. For instance, consider an incident from my early days in law enforcement.
It was what I remember as a slow Thursday night. Most cops, especially young ones, love late nights. Ask them why, and they will fall back on the “That’s when real police work happens” mantra. If they truly think that, it is likely, they spend a good deal of time being disappointed.
In years past, the standard response for the question of what it was like to be a cop was the old 90-10 shtick. You know, 90 percent boredom and 10 percent sheer terror. While there was some truth to that, most nights, especially Thursdays, the terror part was when someone dozed off in the patrol car, and the watch commander caught them. Okay! That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my drift. Whatever the reality, there are those nights a cop never forgets.
One of mine was the graveyard shift in a patrol district of single-family homes, a school, and a strip of retail businesses. It did have a section of Interstate 35 running through it, as well as an intersecting state highway. During the day and early evening, it could be a busy district, but after 11:00 PM it was snoozeville.
Shortly after midnight, about the time I thought I could get away with taking a break at Denny’s, the radio blared, “Sixty-three! Signal two, 380 and I35.” Just what I needed, a major accident near the interstate.
Rolling up on the scene, I realized this was a major, major accident. A late model sedan was sitting in the middle of 380. It was torn almost in half. A hundred yards or so west of it was an eighteen wheeler with flares laid out around it. As I rolled to a stop, I called for ambulances and got a good look at the car in my headlights.
The driver’s side door was gone. The passenger side door was either torn off or almost torn off, as I could see through the car. The rear of the car, fenders, and trunk, were missing, probably dragged further west by the semi. Nothing was moving, and there was no sign of passengers. There was also no way anyone walked away from that mess, so I bailed out looking for bodies.
In those days, LED tactical lights were unknown. I had the standard issue two D-cell flashlight. It put out slightly more light than a birthday candle. Still, between it and the lights on my car, I could tell the passenger compartment was empty. Walking around what was left of the back of the car, I still didn’t see anything other than the truck driver standing down the road signaling he was okay.
As I rounded the car, I could make out something just past the passenger door, which was sprung open until it almost touched the front fender. As I walked to the front of the car my feeble light revealed something I’d never seen before.
At first glance, she looked like she was sleeping. She was laying on her stomach, face turned toward me, with legs spread like she was sprawled on her bed at home. Her left arm was laid out as if she was cradling a pillow with a black pillowcase.
The beautiful little girl looked to be six, maybe eight years old. Her blond hair was spread out gracefully behind her head. It was almost like a picture of someone dreaming, if you can imagine someone sleeping peacefully, on a bed of gravel and rock.
Then I realized the “pillowcase” was a pool of blood, and her blonde hair was beginning to turn dark in spots from the blood. She was asleep, in a biblical sense. It was a sleep from which she would never awaken.
For a moment, time stood still. All I could do was stare at her. Then, I heard someone call out, “Officer! Officer! Is she okay?” It was the girl’s father. I ran to him, and he again asked, “Is she okay?”
He looked awful. He was bloodied, and one leg was bent under him at an unbelievable angle. It was clear he was in shock, so I did the only thing I could. I lied. I told him she was okay, and the ambulance was on the way. I told him to lay back if he could and rest until the ambulance arrived.
I was not a complete rookie. Then again, I was not a hardened veteran. I had seen dead people before. I’d even seen people who died in horrible fashions. This was the first dead child I’d seen, and she was a little girl, just a few years older than mine.
My first thought concerning this matter was to be mad at the trucker. It was clear he was speeding from the damage and debris field. Then I was angry with the father who either ran a stop sign or pulled out without looking. Not only that, he did so with his little girl in the car! Then I was mad at God.
Why would God let a beautiful little girl like that die in such a horrible fashion? How could anyone trust a God who allowed something like this to happen? The truth was I was more scared than mad, and that made me even angrier. If God could let this little girl die, he could let mine die, and I was pretty confident I was not on God’s list of good and faithful servants in those days.
Looking back from today, I know the saddest part of my feelings that night, and in many instances in the years to come, was because of the emptiness I felt. Yes, I had a beautiful wife, and even more beautiful little platinum haired doll sleeping in her bed at home.
Sadly, I’d let my father, a couple of bad church experiences, the world in general, and the death of my brother in Vietnam convince me God was for the weak, both in mind and body. I did not need Him or anyone who claimed to believe in Him. Thankfully, as I now realize, God can use even the darkest of incidents to accomplish his will.
I am not claiming I had an epiphany that night. I did not start the next day looking for the good I could find in such a tragic incident. On the other hand, I was much more aware of my status as a father and husband. My armor when it came to protecting myself from loss was still fully intact, but for a time I knew that had that been my daughter, my armor might not have protected me. In my own way, I was thankful, and I did ask Him to protect my little girl.
Sounds silly, doesn’t it? A hardcore skeptic, rebel, and dyed-in-the-wool jerk praying, even superficially, to a God I fought tooth and nail. I now realize it was His plan all along. I am not the best student in the world in some ways, and He put me at that accident scene for a reason. The guy who usually worked in that area was a believer, and there would have been no lesson for him to learn.
He is still teaching me today. I pray I continue to be a willing student, as I do not need any more lessons such as the one I experienced that night.
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