This past weekend, I went to Waco and went the the Brandon Heath concert with my wife and some friends of ours. It was a good time. We paid for an upgraded ticket, so that we could “meet” with Brandon before the concert and listen to an acoustic set of songs. That was right up my alley as I generally prefer the stripped down concert. During that time, he asked for some volunteers who would be willing to give their testimony during the show. My wife nudged me and said that my friend wanted me to volunteer. I raised my hand to be one of the ten. Brandon’s goal was to have 5 guys and 5 girls stand up and do this. After the first round through the audience, there were 5 female volunteers and 1 male volunteer (me). I shot a glance of encouragement to my friend and he volunteered as well.
We were given a poster board and a marker and it was explained that on one side of the poster we were to put who we were before Christ and who we are now, after becoming a Christian. For me, I knew where I was. I had no fear in putting my past on the paper, but I was terrified about the “I Am” section. Was that a good thing? Shouldn’t it be the other way around where I fought with the struggle to state who I was. Shouldn’t I be constantly trying to put the past in a box that is never to be opened again and hide it from everyone. Don’t we all tend to live under the fear that if people knew who we were in our past, that they might reject who we are now? The past shapes us, but we are supposed to be molded to the image of Christ and that sinful person that I was, needs to remain in the past tense.
My “I Was” moment was rather simple…”I was minutes away from pulling the trigger”. If you have read my short series on my life, then you know what I am referring to.
But what was the truth about who I am now. I pondered on it for a while and the only word that constantly came up was “Alive” so I wrote that down in big letters. But it felt like there was still more to be said about who I am now. I pondered longer, searching my heart for words and ultimately I was reminded, that I am a new creation as well. So my “I Am” read…”Alive and a New Creation”. That was it. I had put the pen to the poster and started to shake as the nerves started to get to me. I did not know why I was nervous, but I was. I had no reason to be nervous, the concert had not started yet and there was still an opening act and all of Brandon’s songs. I assumed that this was part of his closing, and I had time to get the courage to stand up there and put myself out there.
That was not the case. Brandon called on us on the second song into his set. I was freaking out. I watched as the two ladies in the front row went. That meant that I was next up. I grabbed my sign, said a little prayer that I would hold it the right way with the right words showing. I held up my “I Was” side and then flipped it to the “I Am” side. The crowd cheered. It was an amazing feeling and hard to hold back tears. I stood off to the side so that the remaining people could hold their signs up and share their lives. I listened as the crowd cheered for each one of us as we “told” our testimony.
Then the moment was over. He said thanks, we all got another round of applause and we took our seats for the rest of the show (which was great by the way). I sat in my chair for a portion of the show, focusing on what it would have meant to remain in the I was part of my life. To think about all that I would have lost by pulling that trigger. I am a husband and a father now. Years ago, I was tempted to take my own life, and now I have created one with my wife. I am striving daily to be a better husband and a better father. To show the love that the Lord has shown me to them.
I tell that story to remind everyone that when we truly turn our lives over to the Lord and accept that we are a new creation, the who we were is gone. It is for this reason, that I think that coming up with who I was, was easy. There is nothing from my past that can come back to hurt me. There is nothing there to be ashamed of or hide from. All the things that I could have ever listed under the “I Was” are now things that the Lord has moved me out of. If we truly believe in Christ and trust Christ and His Word, then we know that nothing that defines who we were defines who we are now.
If we truly believe that we are new, then telling about our past is not scary, but it is liberating. We do not see it as something to be ashamed of, but rather the very thing that God placed in our lives so that we can relate to others. So that we have a story to share that is bigger than we are. If we are still afraid of the “I Was” in our lives, then we really are not trusting the truth about who “I Am” now. When we are afraid to move past who we were, then who we are cannot truly be seen by others.
I am thankful for the moment that I raised my hand and agreed to stand up in front of the audience and share my eleven word testimony. Not because of the reaction I got from the crowd, but because it reminded me that I am not who I was.