For many years, I believed that I did not have a testimony. What is there to tell about growing up in a Christian home with loving parents or going to church every Sunday and throughout the week, like I did? I was, generally, an obedient child with no tales of mischievous exploits. I did not drink, smoke, or experiment with drugs and I was a virgin until I married Gene. Compared to others who have endured abuses and overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles from the past, do I have anything to say? Well, there is always someone who needs to hear your story, so here’s mine.
I am the middle of three girls. I was born and raised in Virginia and lived in the same house all of my childhood. I have dealt with feelings of rejection for most of my life, in one way or another. But then again, who hasn’t. It is one of the enemy’s most popular schemes in his battle for man’s soul. As a child, I experienced being teased. And if I wasn’t being bothered for always having a larger frame than the other girls, then I was being taunted for being ‘mahogany’ complexioned. While I participated in various activities throughout my youth, I masked many of my insecurities by focusing on my academics and singing, the two areas where I knew I could excel.
By many people’s standards, I was very sheltered, but it wasn’t because I tried to be. There were many instances when I would be with my sisters or friends and miss seeing CRAZY things that everyone else in the group saw. If I showed up to a party where there was a lot of ‘stuff’ going on, there was always somebody that would come up to me and tell me that I shouldn’t be there because the atmosphere wasn’t ME. I believe that, God sent those people to challenge me because He knew more about ME than I knew about ME and my potential for sin.
Attending college did wonders for me. At Tuskegee University, Jesus became more than just my Saviour, as He had been since I was a little girl. While I was there, He became my LORD. I was seventeen and I found myself surrounded by other young people that were unashamedly in love with Jesus. There were no parents around to force us to go to church or pray or study God’s word. We did it because we wanted to grow in our relationship with God. We were young, full of zeal and passionate in our pursuit of God.
I met Gene through the gospel choir. We always seemed to run into each other in the Chapel at noon day prayer or studying the Bible in the Little Chapel before dinner, so we hung out sometimes. We became friends and, after a couple of years (a looong story), we were engaged to be married.
He was working in Chicago and I was finishing up my last year of college as I feverously prepared for my wedding day. We had planned to be married on Mother’s Day, which was also the day I graduated from college.
Three months before the most anticipated, incredible day of my life, my momma died… suddenly. That was definitely not a part of my plans, but I was blessed to be surrounded by family and friends in college that supported me by traveling home with me and assisting me during that time preceding my wedding day. Physically, I was in need of nothing that God did not supply through someone. Emotionally, I was preoccupied with finishing my last semester of college and was having to deal with the fact that I would not have my mom to make my dress and prepare me for my wedding as we had always planned.
Gene and I were married, in the chapel where we met at Tuskegee, on Mother’s Day surrounded by family and friends. The next day after we headed for Chicago. By our first year’s anniversary, we had our first son. I taught high school for a few years, earned a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education and then came home to be with our children. We were also very active in ministry. Gene learned to play the keyboard during this time and we were beginning to write music.
We had to work through the same challenges that other couples do. And like many young ladies growing up today who are taught to be independent and strong, it took me a while to grasp the concept of submission, especially when, at the time, I believed that I could do a better job leading the family than Gene could!
In college, we had dreamed of all the wonderful things that we could do together, but those dreams had faded in our minds with the busyness and mundaneness of life. Although most people did not know it, we griped and complained about most things… most of the time. We loved each other and loved being married, but we were not fulfilled in our lives. Like the children of Israel in the wilderness, we went around and around the same mountain for years. We were moving, but not really going anywhere. Eventually, we made a decision to change. We began to seek ways to enhance our spiritual lives, together, as well as, individually. During this time, God began to remind me of how good He had been to me and all the things He hadn’t allowed to be part of my testimony.
He whispered to me one night as I lay in bed: “It didn’t have to be this way…” I did not understand what He was saying to me. He began to bring back memories. He reminded me how when I was eleven He had allowed me to get out of an unsafe situation with an older guy in my neighborhood that had made inappropriate advances toward me. He reminded me how naïve I was as I visited college campuses during the summers and how it was only His mercy that did not allow me to become like the company that I was keeping at the time. He replayed so many of the unwise decisions that I had made as a young adult and presented me with a rhetorical question: “What if things are not what they seem? What if I sheltered you and kept you from so many things because you were really the one that may have never come back to Me if you went out into the world? What if you were really the wildest one of the bunch and I showed my love for you by keeping you away from temptations that you would not have been able to overcome?”
I wept that night as I considered how prideful I had become towards people whose testimonies had been much more colorful than mine. I had considered myself better than them because I had not been ‘tainted’ by the world. But truthfully, once we are born into human bodies we are already tainted, smeared and smudged. I was humbled as God showed me that He had saved me from ME.
Over the years God continued to deal with me about things in my life that I really did not want to deal with, like being a people-pleaser. He showed me how I had placed people on the throne of my heart and desired to please them more than Him. I believed if I served a purpose in their lives then they would want to keep me. I was wrong. He showed how I fought the fear of being rejected by trying to become indispensable to people and overcompensating to conceal who I really was.
As God lovingly maneuvered me through these emotionally tumultuous places, he showed me a common thread of many of my insecurities – I had a strong desire for relationships and family. I had not understood how my mother’s death earlier in my life and distance from my family could affect me many years later. Only in recent years have I actually grieved my mother not being here. No one told me that, in my thirties, I could still long for my mother and, as a grown woman with my own children cuddled in my arms, I could still want to be held by her. I did not understand the importance of maintaining relationships, not knowing that my husband could never be ‘everything I ever needed’.
I had learned to be as self-sufficient as possible and always have ‘the answers’, which was often interpreted by others as being a know-it-all… which often isolated me. I also learned how to fake it and pretend I didn’t need anyone, but I wasn’t very good at it. And time usually unveiled my true insecurities. Then when people got close to me they were able to see the REAL ME…
But… GOD IS GOOD and works with us perpetually to restore us and help us see ourselves the way He sees us. Looking back, I can see how God had set me apart, at an early age, for His purpose. I see the REAL ME in a different way now…
The REAL ME was hand-crafted by God to serve a specific purpose in His kingdom and meet a need that no one else can fulfill like I can.
The REAL ME embraces my unique peculiarities because I know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made; and that each of my personal attributes was designed by the Creator.
The REAL ME desires the love of others and wants to love people, as well. It is not weakness. It is a characteristic I share with my Heavenly Father.
The REAL ME is not ashamed to experience and enjoy God with abandon. Who the Son sets free is free indeed and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty!
The REAL ME is not afraid of ME anymore.
I once believed that I did not have a testimony. I understand life a little better now. I am certain that the enemy has not given any of us a free pass on our journey. We all have a story to tell and we all have an audience that needs to hear it.
This is how we overcome.
Andrea Little Mason