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Bethany St. James  Headshot

A Witness to Testimony

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Over the years, I have spent an enormous amount of time on stage. Although most of the time I was either naked or debating some political or moral issue, I am used to being criticized and critiqued in every way imaginable.

Having lived over half of my life immersed in a world of excessive sex and materialism, my transformation into a family oriented ministry student is nothing shy of a miracle. As a Born Again Christian, I am always proud to share my story. My testimony is powerful and I am a living, breathing example of what amazing things God can do in someone's life. So, I am always listening, learning and watching for opportunities to be a better luminary. Never one to force my beliefs on anyone, I usually wait until others approach me about the changes they see in me and wait to be asked about it before offering up any explanations. But, I'm always up front. I don't sugar coat who I was or what I've done. I tell the truth as it unfolded and how long the road was that led me to where I am now.

Honestly, I fully expected to be pulled aside at some point and politely told that a "good Christian doesn't speak of such things." However, something quite different has happened. I have begun to notice a pattern. It seems as though the more honest I am about my past, the more people pay attention to my present. For example, I recently wrote a short blog regarding my decision not to use my former stage name any longer. I was open about my feelings and what led me to my decision. Without any qualms or misgivings I posted it on a social networking site where many, if not all, of my church had access.

The next Sunday morning, I was shocked at how many people approached me. I was fully expecting to hear feedback. But I was certainly not prepared to hear how many members of my own congregation appreciated my boldness. I was genuinely moved as person after person began to share the details of their own pasts with me. Later when I sat down to my computer, I was even more surprised to find email after email not only applauding me for sharing my story so candidly but, to share their own admissions of sexual indiscretions, family strife and various addictions. Many authors of these emails were quick to note that their peers would probably be quite surprised by these hidden struggles as they are well respected professionals and highly regarded members of their communities.

The fact is that as Christians our goal should be to lead others to salvation. My pastor once said, "Ours is a gospel of liberation and not condemnation." So if that is true, it stands to reason that we need to be honest with ourselves and with each other about where we have been in order to fully testify to what God has done in our lives. The story isn't complete unless we show the entire map. We need to explain not only what path the gospel has led us to but also what path it took us from. It is my feeling that this is why many people are turned off to Christianity. All too often as Christians, we choose only to share what our lives are like now. We may inadvertently come off a bit harsh and judgmental. By sharing who we were before we give a point of reference and also ensure that no one feels judged or slighted.

The bottom line is that we aren't perfect -- before or after being Born Again. Our lives aren't blemish free. Our families aren't jumping off the canvas of a Norman Rockwell painting. We aren't and never will be perfect all the time, half the time or even a small percentage of the time. We slip, we fall and although we are better off than we used to be, we will never be in a position to judge others. In my experience, by acknowledging the short comings of others we are not helping them but simply giving them the tools to hide their sin better. We need to stop pretending the past didn't happen and start sharing our stories, openly and honestly with each other. Honesty breeds trust and trust leads the brokenhearted to Christ. Being a Christian doesn't mean you have all the answers, it just means you know who to ask the questions.