Three-Minute Testimony: The short, polished story of one’s conversion to Christianity. These are to be rehearsed, memorized and ready to pull out on a moments noticed, whether on a missions trip or simply over lunch with a friend who is seeking.
There was a certain formula to the whole thing, an order. Before I got saved…How I found Jesus…My life now…, and the outline was tripping us up who prayed The Prayer before we stepped foot in a kindergarten classroom. Us who took our first steps on the Straight-and-Narrow.
Mostly, my life had taken place in the fuzzy glow of after Christ. Ice cream in the church basement, memory verses, torn youth group couches. I’d been walking down the halls of my high school feeling a certain sense of otherness, and I wasn’t sure how to put it into words.
I remember summing it like this: “Jesus is my best friend now, so I don’t have to ever be lonely again.” The words looked good in my loopy cursive on that note card. They sounded like they should be true, so I kept them.
But then, if you can tell it like that, in three minutes, tell it like an infomercial, a sound-byte, Before-and-Happy-Ever-After, then it’s not really the whole story, is it?
Grace, I have come to believe, is the thing that you think you know until you smack into it unexpectedly.
You find yourself, for example, sprawled, puking, over the toilet of some dirty bathroom at some sketchy bar. You find yourself small and tired, and the failure tastes awful and metallic in your mouth.
That’s when it comes whooshing up behind you, great and mysterious, bigger than you ever imagined.
I’m not saying you have to kamikaze off that cross-shaped bridge in order to understand God. It doesn’t have to smell like tequila or even look like rebellion.
What I’m saying is that I thought that faith was something that could be summed up. That grace could be defined. That you could explain the whole thing in a tidy three minutes.
I’m saying that for those who are born in the Christian subculture, there is a pull to cloister ourselves. Logic and Focus on the Family would both tell you to play far away from the dangerous precipice of the endless dark.
But grace is one of those things that you don’t know until you know. You have to get close to your own brokenness, see how easy it would be to push that Self Destruct button, feel the razor-sharp edge of your pain against your wrists.
You have to look at the darkness to comprehend the Light.
Grace is not an after, it is a during, an ever-present, a hand soft and firm on your back as you cry in a bathroom stall.
It’s not a miracle cream for the sin-rashed soul, not an ointment that makes everything easier. It is wild and big and it makes you question everything. It is an ocean, ever-shifting, but somehow constant. You spend your life learning how to swim in it.
How can you describe it in three minutes, three hours, three months, three decades? Your story comes in pieces, reveals itself over a lifetime.
One shored seashell washes up, bleached and broken, and it is just a piece of the whole big thing: imperfect and convoluted. Waterlogged and beautiful.