Every Christian’s story is valuable and needs to be told, according to writer and speaker Jackie Hill Perry. In a recent talk, Perry encouraged her listeners to share their stories with others even as she herself modeled the power of doing so.
“I think there’s a lot of fear in being honest about where God has brought us from,” Perry said. “I think sometimes we could be comfortable with people seeing where we are now, not recognizing that there would be so much more fruitfulness if they understood how we got there.”
Why Share Your Story
Perry’s talk was essentially her testimony, but throughout her message she tied the events of her life to truths from the Bible. Her hope, she said, was that her willingness to talk about her own life would help others feel more free to do the same and so glorify God and encourage the people around them.
Perry emphasized that every person’s life is part of a bigger story that begins with Genesis 1-3. The first chapters of the Bible explain that everything in this world is broken and why it is broken. As we look at our own stories, we need to recognize, said Perry, that “When I come into this world, I come in with a problem. I come in it with a heart that isn’t bent towards God naturally.” In Perry’s case, she was born into a family where she experienced a lot of brokenness at a very young age. She said, “My mother loved me well, my daddy loved me sometimes.” The first man to show her anything that approached affection abused her, so she came to see men as inconsistent and dangerous, while she saw women as consistent, loyal, and safe.
Perry realized by age five that she was same-sex attracted. While she grew up going to church, the church was not a safe place to tell anyone what she was feeling. And even though she didn’t want to act on her desires at first, she finally decided in high school that she would.
Perry believes that some of her gender confusion was in part the result of people teaching her false definitions of femininity. “I did not fit the mold of what they said a girl was,” she said. She didn’t enjoy stereotypically feminine things, like purses or the color pink. Because she did not fit this definition of feminine, Perry concluded that she must be masculine. This scenario, she said, is similar to when we tell boys they’re acting like girls if the boys are emotional, as if emotions were gender-specific.
Perry observed that while she was in rebellion against God, it wasn’t as though she was miserable. “I enjoyed myself,” she said. However, she added, “even in my enjoyment of submitting to the flesh, I discovered that I could not find peace anywhere in it.” One of her challenges, said Perry, was even though she recognized she was not at peace with God, she had a misconception of what repentance was. She thought Christianity meant doing “good things” and being ultra-conservative like her aunt. She didn’t understand what it meant to have a new heart and the power of Christ to choose what was right, so she did not think Christianity was something she could accept. Still, God was working in Perry’s life in a number of ways, including through her cousin, whom Perry described as “the only Christian I knew that would have an actual conversation with me as an image-bearer, and not just me as a gay person.”
Then one day while she was watching MTV, the Holy Spirit convicted her and gave her an awareness that she deserved death because of her sin. “The interesting thing is that it wasn’t just sexuality that was my problem,” said Perry. “I started to reckon with the fact that every single thing that I loved and enjoyed deserved death too.” These other sins included stealing, disrespecting her parents, and rebelling against authority. Yet Perry saw that the same Scripture that condemned her sin also offered her hope. When she trusted in that hope, she experienced an awareness of God’s presence, love for Him, and power to obey Him that she had never had before.
Hang-Ups in Sharing Our Stories
Perry concluded by giving her audience several exhortations about sharing their stories. First, she said, every single Christian needs to share his or her testimony with others. Sometimes people don’t want to because they think their stories aren’t “crazy” or dramatic enough. But that way of thinking is not of God, said Perry: “That’s the devil.” It doesn’t matter how you come to faith; the point is that you did. “Everybody in this room is a Lazarus,” she said. “You were raised from the dead, and that in itself is crazy.” For example, if you trusted in Jesus when you were six and are willing to share your story, God could use you to encourage parents of young children who are concerned about their kids trusting Jesus.
For those of us who worry about what others will think if we share our stories, Perry says we need to stop thinking that way. God’s opinion is the only one that matters. Finally, she said, “Stop making your story about you.” The woman at the well in John 4 couldn’t wait to tell people about her encounter with Jesus. We too have the ability and privilege to preach through our lives and glorify God, who is the one who wrote our stories and the only one who deserves the credit for them.