Annie Thorn is senior history major from Kalamazoo, Michigan and our intern here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home. As part of her internship she is writing a weekly column titled “Out of the Zoo.” It focuses on life as a history major at a small liberal arts college. This week, Annie reflects on spiritual journeys–past and present.—JF
Every Friday afternoon, I hop into my 2007 Chevy Avalanche and drive to Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania to pick up one of my Young Life girls for our weekly Bible study. Food is almost always involved when we hang out. Sometimes we get Chick-fil-A, sometimes Starbucks, and sometimes ice cream from the Sugar Shack. Since I had racked up enough points for a free drink, we decided to go to Dunkin’ Donuts this time. Plus, it’s easier to be COVID-safe and keep a mask on when you drink through a straw. My truck’s window has been broken for a couple months now so once we got to Dunkin’, I had to awkwardly open my drivers’-side door at the drive-through.
After chatting for a while, we dove into Phillippians and Love Does by Bob Goff. We’ve been reading a chapter from each every week, and sometimes we even find connections between the two. I don’t remember how–we go on a lot of rabbit trails–but at some point we started talking about testimonies. Some people, who we read about in the Bible or hear speak at retreats, have big, dramatic stories of how they came to know Christ. They can point to a definitive moment in their life when God got a hold of them and turned their life around. They can remember when, like Saul, the Lord opened their eyes and gave them a new identity, a new name. But as my high school friend pointed out, not everyone’s story is like that. Some people’s journeys consist of a few big moments. Others involve small, daily steps of trust.
The next day, ironically enough, my housemates and I had planned to share our own testimonies for “house bonding.” We gathered upstairs at 7 p.m. and talked for well over two hours. As my housemates and I took turns talking, we shared stories and struggles, laughter and tears. Almost all of our testimonies began in the same way— “Well, I was brought up in a Christian home…” None of us really had a dramatic conversion story. Most of us (myself included) couldn’t imagine a time in our life when we weren’t Christians. At the same time, we have all had particular moments that have shaped us. We’ve all had experiences that have forced us to rely on the Lord. We’ve all taken small, daily steps of trust.
Because I’m a history major at a Christian college, I know quite a bit about Christians who lived in the past. Over the past few years I’ve learned about Constantine and Martin Luther and Martin Luther King, famous Christians with important stories that have been told and re-told for centuries. At last year’s Messiah University humanities symposium I heard Anthony Ray Hinton speak. The justice system wrongfully accused him of a crime that landed him in jail for nearly thirty years, but he still placed his hope and trust in the Lord and shared his faith with the man in the cell next to him. In the fall I took a whole class on Joan of Arc, a medieval woman whose faith literally led her into battle at the age of eighteen. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian pastor and author, actively resisted the Third Reich during World War II and faced his own death as a result.
It is easy to feel inadequate when we compare our spiritual journeys to those of famous Christians like these. I’m a few years past eighteen now and I’ve never had visions or led an army. I’ve never risked death to overthrow an oppressive regime or caused an enduring shift in the structure of the church. But there were always Christians like me surrounding people like Martin Luther King, Joan of Arc, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. These Christians were not great leaders, but they still loved their neighbors and joined the fight for justice. They may not have had dramatic testimonies, but they still had stories to share–they still took daily steps of trust.