Last week we met Mack, a recovering addict, who found himself in an uncomfortable, possibly terrifying, situation. Everyone in the bible study he had just joined was asked to share their testimony at an upcoming meeting.
Mack wasn’t sure he was ready to share his past mess with these folks he had just met. After considering several options, he decided it was time to suck it up, be real, and let the chips fall where they may.
How to Prepare Your Testimony
After Mack accepted that doing his testimony would be good for him, and possibly for others, he still had to write it out. Another roadblock to overcome.
Recovery testimony falls into three main sections, each about the same length:
- Family and childhood background
- What got you into your addiction, what it cost you
- How you got into recovery, what it gave you back
Tip #1. Avoid Oversharing. We never want to glorify the “good old days” of our past by going into details or romantizing the experience. The goal of our testimony is to put all the attention on Jesus and what he did for us. It’s not to tell a good yarn.
Tip #2. Write it Out.This helps to sort out your thinking and choose which details to include or not to include. Most people overestimate how much they’ll be able to say. If you type it out, one page, double spaced,takes about 4 minutes to share verbally.
Tip #3. Share it Ahead of Time.It’s a good idea to share your testimony with another person ahead of time. Before the first time I openly shared my testimony, my very wise friendtactfully suggested that I not include details about my ex-husband if I didn’t have his permission.
Tip #4. Focus on Jesus, Not a Program.Whatever program helped you, the real power behind your recovery was Jesus. He is the father of the prodigal son who never gave up hope that youwould make it back to the family. Your recovery program was just the road that got you there.
Sharing Your Testimony
The day finally came. It was Mack’s turn to give his testimony. Most of the class had already sharedtheirs. No one admitted to being an alcoholic, drug addict, or hustler from the ‘hood. Or at least they weren’t “‘fessing” up.
Mack had secretly hoped that the guy with the tattoo in the back of the room might have been a former gang member who’d done jail time. No such luck. He was the youth pastor who’d just graduated from seminary.
So Mack got to his feet, walked his “Green Mile”, and started to read. He made all the usual mistakes. Dropped his reading glasses. Had his papers in the wrong order. Stumbled over words likePTSD, OxyContin, Narc-Anon, gratitude, acceptance, and serenity.
He looked up. The room was silent. Then they stood up and applauded. He thought he saw tattoo guy even wipe his eyes.
That day did change how people saw him, but not in the way he thought it would. At the end of class, one of the women pulled him aside and said, “Could you talk to my son? He’s using heroin.”
And tattoo guy? He pulled Mack aside and said, “Thanks for sharing what you did. I got sober fifteen years ago, but I’ve always been too ashamed to talk about it. I wish I was as free as you are. Do you think we could talk sometime?”
Before long, more and more people at the church got wind of Mack’s testimony. He found he was far from alone in the church as a person in recovery. Instead of becoming the black sheep of the fold, Mack helped find and connect all the former lost sheep whohad come back, but whostill felt like outsiders.
Your testimony is your most powerful weapon in Christ. Revelations 12:11 says “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” That’s powerful stuff.
If you’ve never shared your testimony before, use the structure I described above or check out one of the helpful tools below. And don’t forget to share it firstwith someone you trust. Even if your audience is just your family or a close friend- it’ll do you both good.
The men here at CrossRoads will write and share their testimonies as part of their own recovery. We believe that the process itself, both the writing and the sharing, work to break a few more links in the chain of our shame that, at times, still tries to tie us in knots. Just ask Mack.