Recently, while searching for a stray document on my desk, I ran across a newspaper clipping I had saved to share with a friend. (You remember newspapers, those big sheets of paper with lots of words and pictures that used to show up on your doorstep before news was delivered on your iPhone or RSS feed?)
The article reported the death of 110-year old Frank Buckles, the last U.S. Veteran of World War I. I’m not a history buff, but Buckles’ first-person account of the war was riveting.
He enlisted in the Army at 16, lying about his age, and begged to be sent to the French front lines with an ambulance unit. Eventually, he found himself in the infamous Flanders Fields, an area in Belgium where soldiers fought, hunkered down in endless rows of trenches that dotted the countryside for miles.
One fateful day, Buckles and thousands of other Allied troops were enveloped in a putrid yellowish-brown cloud of mustard gas, a lethal liquid hidden in the tips of artillery shells. By midnight, Buckles said, many of the soldiers were incapacitated as their lungs burned, their eyes swelled shut and their skin erupted with red blisters.
“It increased with every quarter of an hour, and about seven o’clock my eyes were scorching as I staggered back and delivered the last dispatch I was destined to carry in the war. A few hours later my eyes were like glowing coals and all was darkness around me.”
By some accounts, nearly half a million men died in a battle that gained less than two miles of ground, but what drew me in was one man’s firsthand account. I wanted to know what was it like, was he afraid, what ran through his mind? Reading about Flanders Fields in a history book was boring. But Frank Buckles was there. He lived it.
Those of us who claim a personal relationship with Christ also have a story to tell–the story of that relationship: How did we meet Him? What made us decide to be a Christ follower? Has it made a difference in our life? What’s it like to be connected on a day-to-day basis with a living, breathing deity? It’s like offering up our firsthand account.
I could tell you about a time I was on assignment for Christianity Today, covering a trial. At that same time in my life, I was trying to get a mortgage for a townhouse I wanted to buy. The townhouse was an excellent price and within my budget, but I was a self-employed single writer and business consultant. My income was respectable but uneven and lenders don’t like unpredictability in anything.
So despite excellent credit scores, no debt and the ability to make a 20% down payment, no one wanted to give me a mortgage. (This was long before predatory lending became commonplace.)
I was really depressed. I talked to God about it and asked friends to do the same—not because I deserved His help, but because I had done all I could do and I hoped He would step in.
On the first day of the trial, during a brief recess, the man sitting next to me in the courtroom, turned to me to chat. We exchanged pleasantries and then I asked, “What brings you to this trial?”
He said he had no involvement in the trial. His office was next door and he popped in occasionally to take a break from his work. He was a mortgage broker and a Christian and said he had a real passion for assisting qualified mortgage applicants whose circumstances nevertheless made them undesirable to traditional lenders.
You know where this is headed. I secured an excellent mortgage.
Can I prove it was God’s doing? No, but I don’t have to prove it. It’s part of my story, my firsthand account of my life with God. I lived it. I share it, hoping it will encourage others to remember God is always at work in the world. Sometimes we just don’t see it.
People tell me they don’t know how to share their faith with others. Sure you do. Just tell your story. It’s yours. No one else can tell it. It will be riveting.