The Gift of Where I've Been: A Short Testimony

I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of testimony recently and have  felt lead to share a small portion of mine. I've been thinking about the importance of where I've been in the past both physically and spiritually and how that's just as important a story as where I'm headed - which is the general story I tend to share more than where I've been. I don’t really know where this piece of writing is headed as I write, but I'm all about letting my hands do the speaking and seeing what the spirit has in store!

A few years ago now, I graduated from a Christian College in the greater Boston Area. I was an English Major and involved in theatre and several choirs, feeding into my love of music and writing. My junior year, I got involved in a small group, lead by two people who have deeply influenced my walk with God and the direction it’s taken in the last few years. This small group was intentional, honest, and fostered the kind of place where I felt I could breathe once a week throughout the stresses of the semester. 

I was the resident encourager on campus, but looking back now, my encouragement came from a heart of strife. I always wanted the encouragement in return and when I didn’t get it, it lead me to a place of doubt and feeling unloved and unseen. In hindsight, I was constantly raging war with my mind and I struggled to see and receive the amount of love my college community really did have for me at the time.

While college was finishing up, I sought counsel and ultimately felt lead through the spirit to take a leap of faith and apply for a yearlong mission trip called the World Race through the organization Adventures in Missions. I traveled to three countries in Africa, five in Southeast Asia, and four in Central America. The testimony of what God did during this timeframe is enough for a book, but with the help of a large village of people backing me in prayer and financial support, I somehow raised $16,267 in a years time and lived a dream out with God, writing blogs, telling stories, experiencing and seeing sounds, smells, tastes, and people that are still very much a part of me today. 

I don’t really talk about the depths of it now for fear of sounding prideful about where I’ve been. But a mentor and friend of mine told me last summer that this was something I needed to be more open about sharing, especially the things I learned about internally, because the fact that I’ve been where I have both physically and emotionally is a gift and gifts aren’t meant to be hidden away, but shared and seen.

Throughout my time traveling the world, I struggled in mindsets of victim and placing myself in a corner because I felt that if I was seen, known, and loved for who I really was — in the good and bad — I would be rejected, a direct wound from being rejected and misunderstood by several people in my past; friends, some family members, and boys. I struggled with the striving mentality to a more heightened degree than I did in college, thinking that if I could just get into a position of leadership, it would “heal everything away.” 

I was rudely awakened at the end of my time of debriefing in Phuket, Thailand to the fact that this was absolutely not the case. That no, I could not just hope to be in a position with a mindset of strife and not dealing with the pieces of my heart that God ultimately wanted me to surrender to Him. I struggled to give this piece of my heart over to Him until I was home.

After traveling in 24/7 community with a culture of deep communication, feedback, and experiencing third world countries for an entire year with people my age, I was certain God needed me at home despite the glaring issue of not having a solid community I was dedicated to or involved with. I made it a goal to be obedient where I was for at least a year while actively praying for a spirit-filled community of young people who were following God and biblical principles similar to those I had learned while abroad. The decision to stay home for a year is what lead me to the place and community I am now involved in today, and I’m so glad God was faithful in answering my prayers.

In the seven month timeframe of feeling lost and isolated, God met me and worked on my heart in the area of laying down my desire to be in a place of position, and this ultimately lead me to feel immense peace and freedom when I found the community I am now involved in. The striving I felt in college and on the World Race was gone, and walking into a place where I had released expectation on myself to be in any place of position lead me to feel right at home and immediately loved for exactly who I am.

In the journey of becoming dedicated and invested in this community, I have learned the deeper importance of being known and loved by a community of believers, and not only that — the importance of staying and placing roots despite how difficult that process proves to be for meHe has been doing a work. I’m grateful everyday He’s not a God that drops me off on the corner to fend for myself, but that He provides, is faithful, and always comes through.

Ashley CookComment