A friend of mine is giving her testimony this weekend at a retreat, and she asked me to read it first. At our age, a testimony is pretty much the story of our whole life, now seen clearly for what it was about. That's a real improvement, by the way, over what I thought a testimony was when I was 25. Back then "your testimony" was the short answer to the question "Howja get saved?" The formula was of a momentary occurrence in time, conceived of as if nothing of significance had happened either the 20 years before you got saved or the 40 years afterward.
My friend tells of being put on a bus by her parents at age 4 and taken to a vacation Bible school. It is one of the strongest memories of her childhood. She doesn't remember what church it was, or where it was, or the Bible stories they told her. But she has a vivid recollection of women who were kind to her, and gentle. They held her hand from class to class and from the bus to the church and back to the bus. She remembers how they spoke to her in kind ways.
For many years, that memory helped her get through very hard times. Her mother had mental illness and her father was dysfunctional and absent. The two divorced when she was young and she lived with her mother and became her sole support. By the time a church around the corner came knocking at the door, my friend said "No way" to their overtures. They kept pursuing; she kept rebuffing.
One night the church people came around again, and before she could reject them they handed her a beautiful basket of fruit with an envelope pinned to it. She grabbed it and shut the door. There was a $20 bill in the envelope, enough to buy a whole tank of heating oil. It made her remember the kindness of the church ladies when she was 4.
I once read these words on a mug at Peddler's Village in New Hope, Pa.: "In heaven we will see that the big things were really the small things." I wish I could do it all over again and be mindful of the small things. I wish that when my adult children thought of me, they would see in their mind's eye a mother's tender smile. And yet, these things I know about God---that He is a God of second chances, that He acts beyond our imagining, and that He bids us to start today.
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