I grew up in a Christian home and accepted Christ when I was in fourth grade. I was baptized about a year or two later. In middle school, youth group leaders would often speak of testimonies and I always looked back on my “cookie-cutter Christian” story to how I came to know Christ and thought “how boring”. I actually wished I had a more exciting story to share with others, because I questioned, “how could a story like mine bring anyone to Christ?” At that time I did not understand that a testimony is not about my story but Christ’s story–it is not about me at all–for it is through Christ that all men are saved, not through the testimony of Kelsie.

My testimony is one that is less about coming to Christ initially and more about seeing the overwhelming love and goodness and mercy of God in the trials that afflicted me after accepting Christ. My testimony starts with extreme physical abuse from a church friend that led to self-medicating and suicide attempts. My testimony includes diagnosed depression and anxiety. My testimony has 3 sexual assaults from people within my childhood church. It includes a pregnancy by rape in which my baby was lost in a miscarriage, something that led me to falsely believe for a long time that God thought my baby was better off dead than with me as a mother. My testimony is one in which I was totally numb with grief and was actively reckless in relationships and impure because I was convinced that after being raped there was no point in purity. My testimony deals with watching my parents’ marriage deteriorate until they finalized their divorce on my first day of college.

But more importantly, my testimony is one of God’s faithfulness and healing and restoration. My testimony is one in which God took all of my hurt and pain and the lies that Satan tried to get me to believe and replaced them with truth. Truth like the fact that my child is treasured by God and if I am blessed to be a mom of living children someday, it will be in God’s timing and with his care and direction. Truth like it was not God’s desire or plan for me to be raped, but even though that happened to me, God’s good will can and will still be carried out. He is faithful to me and has never left me alone. Truth like I am made whole in Christ. My hope is found in Christ. My love in Christ. My future in Christ. My purpose in Christ. And even my hurt is found in Christ (that is, I can see it through His eyes), and so is my healing.

My testimony is one that led me to become the youth minister at a local church during my senior year of college. My testimony is God delaying me in finding a job after graduation so that I would instead accept a role at a company right down the street from where I would find a new church home. My testimony is being thankful for my hurts and knowing that if the things in my life hadn’t happened or had happened differently, then I might not know the love of God like I do now.

My testimony is God changing my life from one of anger and hurt to one of joy and purpose. My testimony is finding hope in reading the gospel every day. My testimony is memorizing scripture and falling in love with Jesus. My testimony is forgiving the friend who abused me, the men who assaulted me, and my parents who failed me. My testimony is forgiving myself because Christ forgave me first. And none of these actions were me–they were Christ in me. Christ putting the desire in my heart to read and meditate on God’s word. Christ helping me seek out believers for community and spiritual encouragement. Christ teaching me the freedom that comes from forgiveness. My testimony is one in which I asked God to change my heart and break this horrible cycle of sin and hurt and He did through Christ in me.

I love the song by Big Daddy Weave called “I Know.” It says “I know that You are good / I know that You are kind / I know that You are so much more than all I leave behind…” and that is the truth of scripture. God has taught me that following Christ is not just praying a prayer for salvation. It is not trying in our own might to be “good” Christians that sin less and less until not at all. It is not checking boxes of reading the Bible and saying prayers before bed or going to church every week. It’s not even teaching others about Christ or going on mission trips. Following Christ is a daily choice to believe that God is good and kind and will always be more than enough than what we leave behind to pursue Him. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to think that maybe because of my circumstances or my failures, that either God wasn’t good or kind or that maybe following Him wasn’t worth it, but I refuse to believe those lies. I choose to believe the Gospel. I choose to believe Christ. And I know that no matter how messy my testimony and no matter how many times I seem to trip and mess things up, God is good. God is kind. And God is so unbelievably and beautifully more than anything I leave behind.