[tes-tuh-moh-nee, or, especially Brit., -muh-nee]
–noun, plural -nies.
1. Law . the statement or declaration of a witness under oath or affirmation, usually in court.
2. evidence in support of a fact or statement; proof.
3. open declaration or profession, as of faith.
4. Usually, testimonies. the precepts of god.
5. the Decalogue as inscribed on the two tables of the law, or the ark in which the tables were kept. Ex. 16:34; 25:16.
6. Archaic . a declaration of disapproval; protest.
After being approached to give my testimony, my initial thought, or the one AFTER revivals and speaking in tongues and fire and brimstone, was, “wouldn’t you want someone a little more spiritually evolved than me to do this?” But I have a tendency to ignore or be completely oblivious to Gifts from God – even when they are so close I can trip over them. So I decided to look at this “giving testimony” thing as an opportunity or gift.
YG and I have been members of First Church for a few years now, after doing a bit of church shopping. We were both raised with religion, and we both realized, gratefully at the same time, that we were missing spirituality and that sense of church community, in our adult lives. I don’t remember when our first visit here was, but I do remember the sign of peace and all the hugging, looking at YG and saying, “no. just no.” I am an awkward hugger and complete social weirdo, especially with strangers, and I couldn’t imagine hugging. In church. YG gave me one of his YG-Let’s-Just-Chill-Out-A-Minute looks, and we stayed. And it was great. Welcoming. It was the first church I felt like I BELONGED in, that was speaking to me. We stayed after for coffee hour (me, begrudgingly), and I think I may have even socially interacted with people without dying.
And then we kept coming back. My stepdaughter, MG, joined the Sunday school classes, Dan married YG and I, and later, when Zygote came along, she was baptized here.
It’s hard to describe and put into words, especially in 3 to 5 minutes, what being here means to us. When people find out that we come here and that we volunteer our time, their initial reaction is usually, “YOU go the church?” followed by “Why?”
Mainly because I can be quiet here. I can listen here. Most of the time, I have a constant monologue running through my head of things I have to do, ways I’m supposed to be, things I’m doing wrong, tasks that need to be accomplished – a laundry list of ways I am somehow not good enough. Sometimes being here is the one hour during the week that I can remember and have some clarity about what I’m doing all those other things FOR. And really, what’s important.
I have been incredibly blessed with a beautiful family and good health and enough money, but I don’t always remember that. Sometimes it feels like we are living from chore to chore, but when I’m here, it’s like there’s a mute button on everything else and I can be still and listen to what God wants me to hear, that still-speaking God that I can drown out in my day-to-day life.
There’s also the community. We’re all a little Cambridge crunchy in our own ways, but this community has come through for us in ways that were completely unexpected and totally amazing. When I was 37 weeks pregnant, YG got sick and suddenly lost his hearing completely in one ear, needing to learn how to use his balance again. Then I had Zygote and began a pretty hideous bout of post-partum depression, while our older daughter was also battling different illnesses and ended up needing an emergency appendectomy. Let’s just say it was not the best Spring.
Through all of this, you gave us food and letters and helped run errands and sometimes just came and sat with me when I felt like I might go crazy. And we never asked for it! Neither YG or I are particularly adept at asking for help, and I much prefer to soldier on alone. Give me more – I can take it. That which does not kill you only makes you stronger. That kind of stuff. But helping is what First Church does. It’s who we are. And I am so grateful.
I’m glad we ended up here. I can listen and learn and contribute where I can. I have never had to prove myself here. People just accept that everyone has gifts to offer, and they welcome them. I hope that being here will give me clarity on how God wants me to use those gifts in the rest of my life.
Sometimes I still have a very Sunday school view of the world, and I want there to be rumbling and thunder and a parting of the clouds and God saying, “JM, this is exactly what you should do with your life and how should do it. Step One: work part time. Step Two: Run far, far away from Corporate America” and so on. This would be VERY convenient for me. Especially, if it was bulleted or in PowerPoint.
But I suspect that this is not how God rolls, and that the real learning will come in figuring it out for myself, with your support on the way. I am grateful for this space to be quiet, to hear and feel what matters, and to be near people who are modeling the ways that I would like to be. Thank you.