Testimony Haiku

September 20, 2011

Over the past few years, we’ve been using an exercise in our retreat weekends we’ve dubbed “Testimony Haiku.”  We ask the participants to think of a story from their lives where they experienced the presence of God—and then write that story in three and only three sentences. At the end of the exercise, we invite them to read their compositions—and the stories unfold one after another like minimalist poetry. Here’s a sample: 

● My daughter has epilepsy, but had been incident free for a year when I got a call that she’d had another seizure. I found out later she’d been driving in her car alone for an hour, following friends for an outing to a lake.  The seizure had come when they had pulled over for gas for 10 minutes, where she was 50 feet from friends in the safety of the parking lot.

● After 28 long hours of intense labor with an unsuccessful epidural, my first son was finally delivered. As soon as he was born, the doctor immediately put this little baby on my chest. At that moment, I was completely overwhelmed with the power of love I felt for this child and I thought—if this is what my human heart feels for my son, how much more could God love me?

Even a small group of average churchgoers will invariably produce a wealth of profound spiritual experiences.

When I was young, I thought I would be the author of my own story. And though I knew life held problems, I secretly believed I’d be the hero of the tale, triumphing over adversity and guiding the plot to ever increasing highs of faith, happiness, and success. Now—looking back—I know better. I’m a minor character at best, and large sections of the story were beyond my control.

Thankfully, my life is in the hands an Author much greater than I. For the truth is, most of the episodes I’d like to rewrite are clearly my own work—and if it were up to me, I would have left out all the unpleasant bits. In the process, I would have created a tiresome work of mediocrity—lacking in all the elements that make a great story: joy, fear, conflict, pain, reconciliation, death,  new life, surprise...the list goes on.

God, on the other hand, is a master storyteller—clearly revealed in the surprising and unpredictable episodes of our lives and the lives of others. And though I sometimes wish I could skip a chapter, I know this: When the Lord writes a life, the end result will not only be compelling—it will also be a work of substance.

I’m looking forward to the pages ahead.