By Jacqueline Winstead
I never really know where to start when asked to share my story. I feel like I have lived several different stories with God already in the short period of time I’ve been on this earth, and honestly for a long time I thought that was wrong.
I guess somewhere along the way I picked up the thought that a testimony had to have an ending, a nice neat, life-changing ending so big and grand that you never go back to your old ways. I thought once you came to know Christ all the hard stuff, the things that tend to make up our testimonies, would go away. The doubts would die, the sin would be no more, and my faith would be one marked by devotion and growth.
I thought my testimony would be that I was once an atheist. I thought that when asked to share my story I would always speak of that youth room where the Spirit moved me to belief and people I barely knew embraced me as their own. I thought I’d talk about the day God met me there forever. I thought that’s where it was all supposed to end, but it turns out, there was so much more for me to learn. In fact, it was only the beginning.
I always tell people that it’s like when He finally got me He grabbed my hand and started running, almost as though He had to make up for lost time. And to be honest, I’ve never been the strongest runner, so keeping up was hard at times. I often stopped when He wanted me to keep going, took a wrong turn and got lost, or just blatantly started running away from Him in hopes that I could eventually stop running altogether. But it was in this—the failing and disobedience and questions and doubt— that my true testimony was formed.
If my entire story ended on the night my worldview got shattered, then I would have never learned what it meant to actually choose Him when the people and emotions and newness of new life went away. I would have never had to confront the things I had spent 17 years putting my worth in, the lies I believed about myself, and the ways I was settling for way less than the immeasurably more He had for me. I know I would still be dating the wrong people, thinking I didn’t deserve good things, and living out of the feelings of shame and guilt. I probably would have never learned the true power of community, that the Gospel was for me, and what it means to truly know and believe my identity in Him.
I think our testimonies will be our entire lives, as we grow and change and experience joys and hardships. It’ll be the continual sanctification, the on-going process of being made more and more like Him as we seek to know Him each and every day.
A one-time, one-moment testimony is far too small for the God I’ve come to know. That’s why whenever I’m asked to tell my story, I only think about that day in the youth room for a split second. To stop there would miss out on the rest of it, and I think the rest of it is where I became the person I am today. The rest of it is where God has personally revealed Himself to me, and honestly shown off His knack for grace and transformation a whole, whole lot.
The wild thing is that the rest of it is still only the beginning. Tomorrow is another day, with new lessons and another page to add to this tale He is telling through my small little life. He just keeps on running and running. There is no end to our stories with God. My testimony is ever expanding to include more and more of Him, to become less and less about me.
My name is Jacqueline Winstead and this is my story and yours full of all of our humanity and all of His grace. I hope you know that wherever you are in life, in your story, He is there with you. And it’s only the beginning. Keep running after Him, with Him. It’s worth it. He is so incredibly worth it.
WELCOME TO A PLACE IN HIS HEART.
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Thank you so much for tuning in with us. We hope you were encouraged by J’s testimony and find so much worth in your story with God. You are known and loved.
Maali & J