A testimony is so much more than the bullet points of salvation – where, when, how?

A testimony doesn’t end at the point of conversion.

A testimony is the continuing story of God’s redemption in our lives.

I have been a Christian as much of my life as I can remember. I accepted Christ at an age far too young to understand the ramifications of true faith. Though I grew up in a church pew, I didn’t understand the idea of a personal relationship until high school.

During these years, personal obstacles which I created held me down. Most of my life I have struggled deeply with my self-image and my sense of worth.

My brain never knew how to do anything but tear me down. I was hyper-aware of every physical, personality, and spiritual flaw in my life. And my brain was never shy to bring these up.

Tori Cole

Tori Cole

The earliest memory I have of this was, at six years old, writing “You are fat” on a sticky note and putting it up on the wall in my room – just so I wouldn’t forget. I was in no way overweight. In fact, I was thin. This made no difference.

This kind of self-inflicted emotional abuse continued all through high school. I constantly told myself that I was ugly, worthless, and that I didn’t deserve even friendship. Writing is often an escape for me, but it turned into a way for me to record every insult I could think to tell myself. I wrote a lengthy list titled “Why no one will ever love you.” And I believed every point.

I don’t want pity, I only try to illustrate the environment I created for myself.

I realize now I confused introversion with a major personality flaw, and was distraught when I couldn’t “fix” myself.

It likely won’t come as much of a surprise that this attitude eventually led to depression and severe anxiety. But the entire time, I put on a happy face and denied anything was wrong. Some of my best friends from high school still don’t know.

Throughout all this time, my relationship with God did grow. In small measures and for small amounts of time I was able to find comfort and rest in Him.

But I don’t believe I was able to fully surrender – I was offering God snippets.  There was no submitting to His will; I was trying to perfect myself before offering Him all of me.

My self-esteem had grown so low that I refused to believe even God could do anything with me.

I never stopped acting the part of the good Christian girl. I went to youth group, attended several mission trips, led a prayer group at my school, and even maintained a consistent time of prayer and Bible reading. But my heart was never fully committed.

Nothing even began to change until college. I know absolutely that God has used Corban to pull me from the wreckage of who I thought I was. I had never been in a fully Christian community, where I was both allowed and encouraged to open up.

For me, though, it has taken time.

I am just beginning my junior year, and I can honestly say I have healed and grown more in the last six months than the rest of my time here.

I will never stop praising God for that.

One of the most significant steps didn’t begin until last year when my roommate finally encouraged me to go to counseling, where I was able to discuss my anxiety. I found out I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and, partially as a result of that, suffer from panic attacks. I finally accepted that depression wasn’t a sin and was able to talk about it.

For the first time in my life, there was a name to go along with this pain and frustration. There were steps I could take, people I could talk to, and information to learn.

Most importantly, however, I have finally realized that I am not who the devil tries to tell me I am. Christ has told me that I am worthy in His eyes. He places value on me, no matter how wretched my sin has made me. He never gave up on me, even when I saw no hope. He redeemed me and restored me when I was nothing.

I am not perfect, nor will I ever be – and that’s the beauty of it. For the first time, I can admit that I am sinner, but I am not my sin.

My struggle isn’t over. Sometimes my anxiety is an issue. Sometimes I fear panic attacks. I still deal with a crippling fear of rejection and find it incredibly difficult to maintain a healthy self-image. But each day is a little easier, and I know that God won’t abandon me in this process.

Now, more than ever, I see that God is leading me into bigger and better things. He has given me several opportunities to serve on campus this year through CLT and the Hilltop, and I have taken a step of faith and agreed.

Finally, I can be confident in who I am and how God has made me. No longer do I try to morph myself into who I think those around me prefer I be.

I choose to be me, a child of God, fully reliant on Him.