We are not afraid to share stories of what goes on within our walls. When we ask a participant to share their story, it says to them your story matters. A lot of these folks are humbled and honored to share because they know that their story could impact someone else’s life because theirs was impacted in the same way by reading someone else’s story. We believe these stories and quick snippets into the lives of those we serve humanize our clients and gives them the opportunity to share what the Lord has done for them.
When we post pictures of people who are either in our program or have gone through our program, we want you to look into the eyes of someone who said yes to a life of sobriety and feel the warm glow of hope. Why? Because the world needs it. Especially the world we are living in today which is one filled with gloomy news and hopeless chatter that often spirals into fruitless chaos. We are big believers in the power of story. We believe in the hope it brings to the hearts of the weary and broken. So many times, we have had folks apply to our program simply because they read someone else’s story on our Facebook page. Can you imagine what that does for the person who was vulnerable in sharing their story? To hear “I applied because of you.” It bounces hope back into the heart of the one who shared and says, “your story means something.”
What does sharing our stories do? It says, “you’re not alone.” It spreads hope to the mother of a street-involved son. It whispers of a brighter future to a woman trapped in addiction. It can provide courage to someone who is barely hanging on. It can champion someone currently practicing sobriety. And even more, it tells people of battles fought and won - whether it was an addict sharing or not. They inspire people for better tomorrows, to keep going when the road gets narrow, to believe God is working amid chaotic circumstances. These stories are also meant to show you the humanness of the people we serve. They are someone’s someone. A daughter, a friend, a spouse, a parent, a neighbor, an employee. A human.
We wish more people would share their stories because there is power in it, and it can literally change everything. It’s interesting that we as humans feel the need to keep quiet on our pasts. We don’t want people to see where we’ve come from or what we have experienced. If we trace back these insecurities and hesitations, we can see it is a lie straight from the enemy. Obviously, the enemy doesn’t want us to spread good news of what God is doing. He wants the dream of hope to be the idea of a fool. God is moving in peoples lives all the time and doing great and new things. He’s creating Lazarus’s in our midst and calling the dead back to life. He is giving people second chances and saving people from despair. He deserves to be glorified with our testimonies.
One of our favorite times at Rising Above is graduations. Graduations give participants the chance to share where they’ve been and where they are today. The power and hope that ripples throughout the classroom is almost tangible as participants and staff alike lean in to catch every hope saturated word. It’s energizing and rejuvenates us as staff to keep doing what we do and it’s a reminder that no one is too far removed from God’s grace. It’s evidence that God is working. God doesn’t stop working. He is the master of miracles, the giver of hope, the restorer of souls.
We live in an age where we have the power to act as our own little publicity agents sharing positive little snippets of our personal lives and totally skewing what it looks like to be a regular human being. We don’t mean to do this, of course. But if all we ever see is happy-go-lucky reports from our social media comrades, we aren’t getting an accurate picture of what it looks like to be human. I’m sure you’ve caught yourself wondering why so-and-so’s lives are so beautiful and rewarding and why you feel like a boring person. Well, perhaps so-and-so feels that way, too, but is showing you their life through rose colored glasses. If we only ever share the light, people won’t know who they can turn to in the dark. They may start feeling bad or broken. Why am I this way? Why can’t I just be like so-and-so? It’s not real. Stories and the sharing of the bloody and gritty truth of our lives allow people to look into their own hurt and pain and feel empowered to change. They feel like they are not sitting alone in a corner with no one to turn to. When we share, chains break in not just our own lives, but the ones who are listening. It breaks the silence and allows for deep and meaningful connections and conversations. It allows for God to do heart surgery’s and perform miracles in everyday people. Real people. People like you and I. Testimonies are reports from those who have been tested and have come out the other side stronger, wiser, and more resilient.
This is not to say that everyone should just start shouting their testimonies from the rooftops. There is wisdom in knowing when, where, why, and who to share our nuggets of treasure with. There’s a passage in the Bible that talks about feeding pearls to pigs. Our stories and testimonies are pearls, and we need to be cautious in who we are feeding them to. Perhaps this post is for someone specific or a few people who have had their testimony stirring in their heart. Maybe you feel prompted to share and the Lord is guiding you in this. Or…maybe you’re not thinking about sharing it at all. But maybe one day the Lord will bring these words back to you, so you feel confident in sharing. I know you have a story. We all do. And there is a holy power in it. I want to encourage you that your story matters and the scars of past battles are evidence that God has been gracious to you and has made himself known to you in dark places.
One of our Case Managers, Jason Wood, offers some beautiful advice on how to dissect your story and prepare it in a thoughtful way. Fragments of your story may have been floating around in your head for years and putting them all together seems like quite the undertaking! I hope and pray that the Lord will empower you to share what he has done in your life and this helpful advice from Jason will make getting your thoughts on paper easier. When you share your story, it may be over coffee with a friend. Or maybe it will be in front of an audience. Perhaps it is simply to remind you that you were not forgotten about and the Lord has walked with you, even when it felt like He didn’t.
Preparing Your Testimony
There are 4 main elements in the Bible. Creation, the fall, redemption, and restoration.
- Creation is the origin.
- The fall is where sin, brokenness, and pain first entered the story.
- Redemption is where, how, and when did Jesus enter the narrative.
- Restoration is the acknowledgement that Jesus has met me, redeemed me, and restored me.
When you think about “creation”, think about where you came from, what you were born into, and the circumstances surrounding your creation.
When you reflect on “the fall”, think of the things that happened in your life that prompted you to sin, and what caused pain and brokenness in your life. What did this time period look like for you? What were you caught up in? What caused you to stay in that place?
When you think of “redemption”, where did you first encounter God amid this chaos? What was your experience like? What were the circumstances surrounding his arrival? What did the road of redemption look like for you?
And when you reflect on “restoration”, in what ways has God restored you? In the Bible, restoration is always in abundance. When something is restored, it is always better than it was to begin with. God's promise to us is a better way, a better life, a better future for ourselves and our loved ones.
Matthew 5:14-16 “You are light for the world. A city cannot be hidden when it is located on a hill. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket. Instead, everyone who lights a lamp puts it on a lamp stand. Then its light shines on everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine in front of people. Then they will see the good that you do and praise your Father in heaven.”