And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
When you’re sitting with someone whose child has just died, or who is need of healing, or who just lost their job; when you hear on the news about paedophile rings, school shootings, refugees being turned away with nowhere to go and no way to keep their children safe – when you stare these moments and people full in the face and feel your legs go out from under you, your blood running thin and your head swimming with conflict as you wonder why in heaven and on earth this is happening – your testimony is for you.
It’s to keep your hope alive.
It’s to keep you steady.
It’s to keep you focused.
It’s to keep you listening.
These are not the moments to whip out your testimony and bash someone over the head with it. Rather, let what you know to be true steady you. Let it witness to your spirit. And then let your life do the talking rather than your mouth.
Sometimes, in these moments, perhaps you don’t have a story to steady your pulse or to keep your hope alive. The temptation to throw words around to “ease the awkwardness” in moments of crisis and heartbreak is strong. But it's distracting and dishonoring. I find that in these times, my story tells me that my deepest need is to be seen and known. And that the person next to me, or on the news, or living down the road has the same need. It’s then that I can open my heart and let their story into mine. See them, hear them, begin to know them.
In her book, “I know why the caged bird sings,” Maya Angelou wrote:
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
If that’s my story, and it is, I bet it's the story of others, too. Can I get a witness?
It can be tempting to fill in the silence and the questions and the unknown with advice and platitudes and even scriptures and success stories. But what is needed is your presence, your ears, your open heart, your willingness to walk alongside others through the hard stuff. After all, our lives testify to the power of having someone stand beside us, right?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”
In other words, let their story witness to your own.