My mouth was dry . . . my palms were sweating . . . I wasn't sure I really wanted to do this - but before I knew it, I was on my feet. My pastor, Fleming Parmer, immediately pointed in my direction and called my name. It was too late to back out now. Over the deafening thud of my own pounding heart, I heard these words come out of my mouth - my first public testimony: "Uh, uhmm . . .uh . . . I . . . I love the Lord with all my heart, and, uh, I want to go all the way with Him."
The last few words tumbled out so fast that some people probably missed them. Aunt Hettie probably whispered out loud to my Grandma, "What did he say?" Even so, I am amazed to this day that my first feeble effort to tell the world about Jesus was met with an "Amen" or two and a "Praise the Lord!" The old folks in the church were pleased.
You might wonder how I could remember something that took place so long ago. Ever read the book Growing Up Born Again? As a child growing up in the church there were certain rites of passage we all went through. One such rite was that first testimony in a Wednesday night prayer meeting. Mine was one of the standards. There were several from which to choose. I don't mean to say that there was a published list or anything, but there were the basics.
My first testimony was the shortest and easiest to remember, so I ran with it. Much has changed in my life since I first "testified for my Lord" in the First Church of the Nazarene in San Benito, Texas. However, one thing that has not changed is my testimony. Memorized or not, shortest on the list or not, I still love the Lord with all my heart, and I still want to go all the way with Him.
Through pastors, Sunday School teachers, and mentors, the church had taught me a good thing - to love God with all my heart. The prayer meeting theology may not have been graduate level, but it was life changing.
I truly wanted to love God with all my heart! I came to believe that it was truly possible for me to love God with all my heart! I believed God truly wanted me to love Him with all my heart!
And then one day one of those good Sunday School teachers asked me to read Mark 12:29-30: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." And there it was. . . "Love the Lord your God with all your heart . . ." So this really is what God wants from me!
I now know that through the sanctifying grace of our Lord, I can come to love Him in this way. I now know that through my daily choices He enables my heart to remain true to Him. Sure, I still love people and appreciate things, but I do not love anyone or anything in the same way that I love Him . . . with all my heart.
My theological understanding is a bit more developed than it was when I first testified on that Wednesday night many years ago, but with my heart pounding with exuberance, I still am saying the same thing today: "I love the Lord with all my heart, and I want to go all the way with Him!"
J. K. Warrick is a general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene.
Holiness Today, January/February 2007