Personal testimonies: ‘We’re all stories’

Personal testimonies: ‘We’re all stories’ February 10, 2012

Like most evangelical Christians, I love personal testimonies.

This is one of the best traditions of our anti-traditional religious tradition. We get up in front of each other and we tell our stories.

Personal testimonies aren’t sermons or arguments. They are our stories — the stories that tell who we are. They are our own stories — the stories we own and the stories that own us. They belong to us and we belong to them. As Alise Wright wrote recently, quoting the Doctor, “We’re all stories, in the end.”

The personal testimonies evangelicals share in church tend to be conversion narratives and, sadly, they tend to be tailored to meet the expectations of the trope and to all start to sound the same. That’s a shame. “We’re all in some ways alike,” is one good reason to tell our individual stories, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of also saying, “This is who I am and I alone am me.”

Anyway, the conversion stories we share in church are only one tiny sub-group of personal testimonies. Such testifying isn’t unique to churches — it’s something we humans do because we’re humans. The testimonies we share are as diverse as unique as we can be, which is a lovely thing to behold.

Personal testimonies deserve our attention because people deserve our attention. When people share their stories, they’re not trying to persuade or convince or convert. They’re not presenting an argument that demands a response or a rebuttal. They’re just saying: “This is my story. This is who I am and what happened to me and what happened because of me.”

Here are some personal testimonies I’ve collected from around the Web recently. Some of them are about faith. Others are about other encounters and epiphanies and other forms of liberation. Some of them are triumphant and inspiring. Some of them are heart-breaking. Some of them are both of those. All of them are honest.


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